American Chemistry Council members late last year reported experiencing shipping delays, shortages of raw materials and increased transportation costs—disruptions that “proved costly, with more than one-third of companies reporting additional costs exceeding $20 million over a one-year period,” according to an association survey.
ACC’s Economics and Statistics Department conducted a member survey in November and December 2021 on supply chain and freight transportation challenges across ports and ocean shipping, inland waterways, railroads, and trucking; 67 chemical and plastics manufacturers participated. The 63 respondents utilizing rail together receive about 170,000 carloads annually and ship out 565,000 carloads annually.
On Jan. 12, ACC Senior Director of Regulatory and Technical Affairs for Transportation Jeffery Sloan shared the survey results with the Surface Transportation Board (STB), which recently posted on them on its website.
Specific to rail transportation, the survey found:
• “Companies that ship by rail generally reported ‘moderate delays and service challenges’ across Class I railroads during Q3 of 2021.”
• “The most significant impacts were reported on CSX, with 44% of customers reporting ‘severe’ delays and service challenges.” CSX was followed by CN, Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern (NS), Kansas City Southern/BNSF (tie), and Canadian Pacific (CP) in the “Severe Delays/Service Challenges” category.
• “Most rail users reported longer transit times (78%), typically about eight days longer with some companies reporting an increase of more than three weeks.”
• “A large number of rail users reported missed switches (60%), reduced service days (46%), increased demurrage charges (43%) and higher rates (42%).”
• “Only 11% of companies reported that railroad delays and service challenges were improving. 25% said conditions were getting worse and 64% said they were about the same.”
Shippers also reported that the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach experienced most severe delays and service challenges, followed by Savannah, Vancouver/Seattle, New York, New Jersey, Houston, Charleston, and Great Lakes (including Chicago and Cleveland).
For more results, download the survey below:
In other developments, the STB recently called on CSX and NS to address service performance. CSX provided a response in November (see “CSX to STB: ‘Committed to Overcoming Supply Chain Challenges’”); NS in December (see: “NS to STB: ‘Service Levels Do Not Meet Our Customers’ or Our Expectations’”).