About Us  News / Media  Member Benefits  Departments  System Divisions & Federations  Governing Documents  

Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) Must End Immediately.

Published: Dec 14 2022 3:08PM

For the better part of two days in D.C. this week, testimony after testimony before the Surface Transportation Board, ranging from Labor Union presentations (including the BMWED) to trade associations to the rail customers themselves, has dragged Union Pacific’s operations strategy worse than a dangling E.O.T. device, thoroughly decimating the greed and short-sightedness that has led to U.P.’s utter ineptitude.

Any company worth its share price would feel complete shame and embarrassment for conduct that has led to U.P. issuing over 1,000 embargoes in 2022 – a practice where trade is stopped to clear up congestion and backlog – due to woefully insufficient workforce staffing driven by their version of “precision scheduled railroading,” which “Uncle Pete” comically calls “Unified Plan 2020.”

What PSR or UP 2020 or whatever you want to call it has done to their service is destroy it. U.P.’s customers are in the lurch, betrayed by a foolish strategy wrecked even more expeditiously by the Covid pandemic, where lean operating ratios and record profits were fixations rather than adequate and reliable service and dedication to fulfilling their shippers’ expectations.

What it has done to U.P.’s employees is a fundamental failure that hasn’t been seen to this degree in decades, if not a century. Just on the maintenance of way side, 22 percent of Union Pacific’s total trackage, 7,239 cumulative miles, is currently under slow order due almost entirely to the carrier’s decision to reduce manpower in the track department. As BMWED spokesperson Brother Rich Edelman told the STB Tuesday, that is the equivalent of 11-man football team intentionally inflicting two injuries to its on-field roster. It’s stupid.

In October 2021, U.P. had 6,123 MOW employees and claimed it was in the throes of a hiring spree spurred by recognition of its manpower-trimming misstep. Yet, in September 2022, the railroad has only 5,954 MOW employees, a REDUCTION from an already woefully inadequate number the year prior. And those employment numbers don’t even reflect the loss of workforce prior to the pandemic, which is an even more egregious precipitation.

Rail workers from every craft across the board can relay similar stories. Operating crafts are so egregiously undermanned that trains sit for weeks, causing the consternation for shippers that has been well-documented this week. U.P. regularly constructs trains in upwards of 13,000 feet when sidings are only 9 to 10,000 feet long, leaving dispatchers nowhere to divert passing locomotives. Circuitous routing that takes trains hundreds of miles away from desired destinations to evade further traffic congestion creates further on-time service delays. The entire wrath of the PSR model is eroding at warp speed and leaving both labor and customers at wit’s end.

Clearly, the railroads – not only U.P. but the entire Class I lot who have chosen PSR at the behest of Wall Street and the almighty dollar – must be penalized for their greed and incompetence. If the STB does not have the will or the teeth to hold them accountable, Congress should step in. The current operating and management system of America’s biggest rail carriers is beyond untenable – it is now obscene. Things must improve. The treatment of their employees must get better. The expectations of their customers must be met. The demands of their shareholders must finally take a back seat to the people who create their profits.

The travesty of Precision Scheduled Railroading must come to an end immediately.