A rail strike could cost America up to $2 billion a day

Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) — Consumers and businesses in Montana and across the country will be deeply affected when railroad workers go on strike and freight trains stop rolling across the country.

KGVO News spoke Wednesday with Patrick Barkey, director of the University of Montana’s Office of Business and Economic Development, about the potential impact of a rail strike here in Montana.

A railroad strike in Montana would be devastating

“It would clearly be an unfortunate development but if the railroads went on strike it would affect all railroads and given that MRL (Montana Rail Link) is now gone and has been re-acquired by BNSF (Burlington Northern and Santa Fe). a fairly high exposure in Montana. So, I think the best news I can bring is that at least it’s coming at a time that doesn’t involve time-sensitive things like harvesting.”

Barkey outlined three sectors of the economy that would be most affected by a nationwide rail strike.

Much of Montana depends on the railroad economy

“There are really three different ways of looking at ordinary trading on trains in Montana,” he said. “One of them is the use of the rail system in Montana. So the Rail Towns in Montana will be affected, no question. Along the High Line, Billings and here in Missoula. It’s going to affect trains going through Montana, and so we need to open up these railroad lines and get them running.”

Barkey said the hundreds of oil container trucks traveling across the state to Washington and Canada to be shipped overseas would be badly affected by a strike and that trucking simply would not be able to fill the gap .

The oil that is transported by rail simply cannot be transported by truck

“These are exactly the types of products that will be hit the hardest by a real strike, especially here in Montana,” he said. “We are not a large consumer market. We don’t have a large population. We’re a resource-producing state where we sit geographically in the middle of some pretty important trade routes. And this is certainly one of them. And yes, I think that means there really isn’t a good alternative for, say, higher value, lower value goods than rail and trucking just isn’t an option.”

According to the Associated Press:

Railways move about 40% of the country’s goods each year. The railroads estimated in a report released earlier this fall that a railroad strike would cost the economy $2 billion a day. Another recent report by a chemical industry trade group predicted that a month-long strike would see about 700,000 job losses as manufacturers that rely on railroads shut down, prices of almost everything rise even more, and the economy may falter A recession will be affected. And while some companies would try to shift deliveries to trucks, there aren’t nearly enough available. The Association of American Railroads trade group estimated that 467,000 additional trucks per day would be needed to handle everything the railroads are supplying.’

Food shortages can lead to panic buying

Additionally, major food companies are reluctant to discuss the threat of a rail strike, as concerns about product shortages can lead to panic buying.

Barkey said Montana and the nation would soon learn how important railroads are to our economy if there were a prolonged strike.

“Specifically for Montana, it really depends on how long the strike lasts,” he said. “For bulk goods, trains are the most economical. This includes things like fertilizer, coal and so on. But unfortunately we will all learn how important the rail system is to everyday life here in Montana when it becomes unavailable, which it might be.”

One of the biggest rail unions rejected its deal on Monday over concerns about demanding schedules and a lack of paid sick time.

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