Freight railroads said they are planning to halt the transport of hazardous materials and sensitive cargoes, such as chemicals used in fertilizer and chlorine for water purification, as they continue negotiations with two labor unions.
Railroads have informed customers that they may stop accepting certain types of freight, including bulk shipments, beginning Monday to avoid materials being unattended or unsecured in case of a work stoppage. Rail customers such as agricultural companies are evaluating contingency plans, including shutting down processing plants amid rail delays, or hiring alternative transportation providers such as trucking companies.
The ripple effects of the railroads’ plans are extending beyond freight traffic. Amtrak said it would begin reducing some passenger services Tuesday by canceling trips over three long-distance routes.
The freight railroads have already reached new labor deals or are completing tentative agreements with 10 unions, and are in continuing talks with two groups representing about 66,000 workers. The two remaining unions, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and SMART-Transportation Division, said Sunday that the railroads’ plans to restrict cargo is a move to “extort a contract settlement” and that they remain at the bargaining table.
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