Omaha World-Herald | Despite Steady Profits, Railroads Have Laid Off Thousands

08.28.17 | Russell Hubbard, Omaha World-Herald

America’s railroads are going through a round of job cuts - 25,000 in recent years, with more likely to come - aimed at efficiency and controlling future costs.

It’s a familiar pattern for an industry that once was highly labor-intensive and has become more automated, with added computer-driven changes in the works that could reduce employment further.

Union Pacific Railroad’s decision last week to trim 750 positions, mainly at its Omaha headquarters, follows similar force reductions by the other major freight rail systems.

Altogether, the six largest of the seven Class I railroads have shed about 25,000 jobs in recent years, or about 13 percent of their workforce.

Last month the federal Surface Transportation Board sent a letter to the company asking for more information on unpredictable schedules and other network problems that “have forced a number of rail shippers and their customers” to curtail production, according to the document.

“They do need to always be aware of the possibility of cutting too much or too fast, and that certainly seems to be the case at CSX,” said Larry Gross, an industry analyst with FTR Transportation Intelligence. “Operations have been disrupted due to the pace of change, and customers are frustrated by their inability to actually reach a human being at CSX in order to work out their problems.”

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