America’s freight railroads are incredibly chaotic right now, by Rachel Premack

Straight out of Atlas Shrugged, even the train picture. From Rachel Premack at

A ‘disastrous’ rail strike may occur

Jason Doering has seen a lot during his 18 years at Union Pacific Railroad. But what’s happening with the current hiring class at UP is unprecedented. “They’re dropping like flies,” Doering said. “I mean, I’ve never seen it.”

A railroad engineer or conductor typically earns a six-figure salary, retires with a pension and enjoys union benefits. They don’t need a college degree; the monthslong training is provided on the job. It’s the kind of career that ought to be popular — but Doering said trainees and longtimers alike are getting burned out. It used to be a job with eight- or nine-hour shifts and plenty of time at home. Now, Doering says railroading demands too much time away from one’s family and workdays that last up to 19 hours, combining 12-hour shifts with hours of waiting around for transportation or relief crews.

Union Pacific is struggling to find railroad crews after years of slashing headcounts. The $22 billion railroader had 30,100 employees during the first three months of 2022, according to its latest earnings report. Five years prior, the company had nearly 12,000 more workers. (A representative from Union Pacific declined to provide a comment for this article, as the company is reporting its second-quarter earnings later this month. The rep did share a company blog on the importance of supply chain fluidity and cooperation.)

This employment issue isn’t unique to Union Pacific. America’s railways are in an unusually chaotic state as Class I lines struggle to find employees. That’s led to congestion that analysts say is even worse than 2021, which saw some of the biggest rail traffic in history. Now, a strike of 115,000 rail workers could happen as soon as next week.

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3 responses to “America’s freight railroads are incredibly chaotic right now, by Rachel Premack

  1. Thanks for sharing this important piece, otherwise I’d likely not have seen it.


  2. Great article. Thanks for posting.


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