The U.S. freight rail industry is praising public and private measures encouraging supply chain partners to adopt operational practices that are 24 hours a day, seven days a week in order to relieve bottlenecks in the supply chain.
“Railroads have long been 24/7 operations and have remained a resilient, vital part of keeping goods moving across the nation during this challenging time,” said Ian Jefferies, president of the Association of American Railroads.
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, retailers such as Walmart and parcel carriers FedEx and UPS have said they are expanding container operations to help open up capacity and address the bottlenecks at port terminals.
The plans to expand operations come as President Joe Biden discussed transportation challenges with supply chain stakeholders in a virtual meeting on Wednesday.
“While this is a shot in the arm to increase capacity before containers reach rail lines, the industry knows close coordination with its trucking partners is critical to accelerate the movement of goods out of intermodal yards and into warehouses. Collaborative efforts like what was announced today are vital to help ease pain points and smoothly pass goods from one leg of the freight logistics relay to the next,” Jefferies said Wednesday.
To address the supply chain congestion, the freight railroads have taken steps such as increasing coordination across railroads in busy hubs, rerouting traffic, increasing storage capacity to offload containers, working with trucking partners to move shipments from intermodal terminals to warehouses, facilitating on-property chassis pools and offering incentives to customers that can work on the weekends, according to AAR.
AAR said it has cautioned White House administration officials to consider how additional regulations could hinder railroad operations.
When pressed by federal regulators earlier this year about how the railroads can relieve supply chain congestion, individual Class I railroads have suggested that port operations run similar hours to the railroads as a way to improve supply chain flows.
The operational changes among the other supply chain stakeholders come as all the member retailers affiliated with the National Retail Federation have been impacted by supply chain disruptions, according to NRF’s September member survey on the supply chain.
Twenty-two percent of the respondents said they were experiencing intermodal rail delays, while 74% said staffing was the biggest issue impacting warehouses.
All the respondents of the survey also said that their lead times have increased, with 54% saying that at least three weeks have been added to their supply chain.