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Rail Roundup: Union Pacific ordered to fix service to Foster Farms

CN reports rail traffic controllers ratify new labor deal

A Union Pacific train passes by a railroad crossing. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

STB orders UP to resolve service issues at Foster Farms

The Surface Transportation Board wants Union Pacific to address the service issues raised by UP customer Foster Poultry Farms in California.

Foster Farms had filed a petition for emergency service before the board on Thursday, noting continued service deterioration, according to STB. STB’s response — an order issued Friday — calls for UP to deliver specific train sets of animal feed to Foster Farms on the time schedule specified by UP (NYSE: UNP). 

The schedule will help prevent a potential significant loss of livestock in California, the board said in a new release. UP was also required to provide a status update to the board by Tuesday. If the railroad needs to deviate from its proposed schedule, it must inform Foster Farms. 

The order relates to a decision the board rendered in June regarding Foster Farms, directing UP to adhere to specific service agreements and update STB on the railroad’s progress. STB’s oversight of UP’s progress was extended to July 20, 2022, and the board left the docket open through Jan. 20 in case further action is needed. 

According to STB’s decision last week, Foster Farms said the service issues began in October. 

“Extreme cold temperatures and blizzard conditions in late December have impacted 20 of the 23 states where we operate, with more severe weather continuing into the new year,” UP, in response to STB’s order, told FreightWaves. “Union Pacific remains committed to serving all of our customers as efficiently as possible, including Foster Farms, weather permitting. We continue to have open dialogue with our customers and the Surface Transportation Board as we work to recover from weather issues.”


STB’s decision calls for UP to deliver five loaded trains to Foster Farms’ Traver, Turlock and Delhi facilities in California, according to the railroad-provided schedule. In addition to providing service updates to STB, UP must also convey whether it will grant competitor BNSF (NYSE: BRK.B) switch or trackage rights to avoid continued or future service disruptions. 

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Rail traffic controllers ratify new CN labor deal

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference ratified a new collective agreement on Dec. 23, CN announced Monday.

The deal covers about 160 rail traffic controllers in Canada, CN (NYSE: CNI) said. It went into effect Saturday, lasts through Dec. 31, 2025, and includes wage adjustments of 3% in 2023, 3% in 2024 and 2.5% in 2025, as well as other benefits. 

“We are pleased to have negotiated a new collective agreement before the expiry of the previous one,” CN President and CEO Tracy Robinson said in a news release. “We are committed to working with our railroaders and their union representatives to create a workplace where employees thrive and together we deliver better and safer service to our valued customers.” 

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CN liable for fines related to 2015 forest fire

A Canadian judge with British Columbia’s Supreme Court has ruled CN is liable for paying penalties associated with a June 2015 fire near Lytton.

The penalties were initially worth about CAN$16.62 million, but last week’s ruling reduced that slightly to $16.2 million while keeping much of the original order intact, according to a Thursday CBC report. According to the report, CN never disputed that it broke British Columbia’s laws and regulations regarding wildfires, although it had argued the firefighting and damage costs to the land were too high. 

The fire started on June 11, 2015, when rail-cutting activities along CN’s tracks caused a grass fire. At the time, the Canadian government had rated rail cutting as a high-risk activity because of area conditions. 

The British Columbia Wildfire Service attended to the fire immediately and continued to do so through Sept. 3,, according to a Wednesday ruling by Judge Niki Sharma. When the fire first started, dry conditions and strong winds spread it, causing the evacuation of a First Nations community and putting Lytton on an evacuation alert. 

In June 2021, another fire in Lytton resulted in two deaths. Neither CN nor Canadian Pacific (NYSE: CP) contributed to the cause of the blaze, according to a finding by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. 

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.