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Teamsters, car haulers agree to 3-year contract

Nationwide strike averted as both sides reach 11th-hour deal on tentative pact

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The Teamsters union and unionized car-hauling companies reached a tentative three-year collective bargaining agreement late Tuesday night that averted a nationwide strike of drivers and maintenance workers that would have begun Wednesday.

Details of the agreement will be disclosed after it is reviewed on June 16 in Washington by leaders from 29 locals representing about 3,000 workers, the Teamsters said in a statement. Two representatives from each local will decide whether to approve the contract. If approved, the agreement will be sent to the Teamsters’ general executive board. Once the board recommends the contract, it will be submitted to the rank and file for a ratification vote.

A one-year extension of the current five-year agreement, which was set to expire Tuesday at midnight, will be extended until members vote. Wage and rate increases, among other adjustments, will be retroactive to Wednesday, the Teamsters said.

The agreement will provide wage increases, improvements in health and welfare benefits, additional paid time off and work rule enhancements, the Teamsters said.

The weekend before last, workers in the U.S. and Canada covered by the National Master Automobile Transporters Agreement voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike should a contract agreement not be reached before Wednesday. The car-haul division had said repeatedly would not accept a further extension of the one-year pact beyond Tuesday. 

Over the past 48 hours, however, union officials had voiced increasing optimism that a contract would be reached in time. A key breakthrough came when the companies agreed to language setting strict limitations on subcontracting.

The tentative agreement covers workers at Kansas City, Missouri-based Jack Cooper Transport, Edwardsville, Illinois-based Cassens Transport and five smaller carriers. 

The proposed agreement will “improve wages and benefits and will serve as a national model to organize hundreds of new car haulers nationwide,” said Avral Thompson, the Teamsters’ car-haul division director and co-chair of the Teamsters National Automobile Transporters Industry Negotiating Committee.

Car haulers have long been considered among the most skilled of over-the-road truck drivers. They haul extremely high-value cargoes that are prone to damage and face delivery challenges that go well beyond the traditional dock bumping in which drivers engage. Spatial skills are required for organizing cars and trucks on the haulers and the training takes months, according to nonunion car hauler United Road in Plymouth, Michigan. 

In recent years, union carriers have been undercut on price by lower-cost, nonunion rivals. Truckers also face competition for longer-haul traffic from the nation’s railroads. In the U.S., the rail industry transports about three-quarters of all new cars and trucks, according to the Association of American Railroads. However, a truck is involved in every rail movement of motor vehicles.

Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.