Freight Train Delays Aren’t Endangering Supplies Of Pringles And Fries… Yet

Image courtesy of nfarley

There’s no need to worry yet, but it’s possible that service problems at the freight railroad CSX might endanger Pringles, McDonald’s French fries, and the production of other mundane objects that keep our economy running.

Cooking oil by truck

Freight trains are crucial to our economy, performing important behind-the-scenes work like bringing crucial chemicals and other ingredients to factories, hauling ingredients to food plants, and bringing feed to farm animals.

The problem is that when trains don’t run when they’re supposed to, or when trips take too long, coal piles up in mining areas, chickens run out of food, and potato crisp factories run out of cooking oil. That’s what’s happening to some customers of freight railroad XC

The Wall Street Journal, reporting about the logistics delays, uses Kellogg and McDonald’s as potato-related examples of what the freight congestion is doing. Kellogg, now the owner of the Pringles brand, has to wait too long for cooking oil shipments to arrive, meaning that it would have to stop Pringles production. The company temporarily solved the issue by shipping some oil in by truck.

McDonald’s, meanwhile, normally ships frozen fries into Nashville by train, and those shipments have also been delayed. Like Kellogg, it’s been sending fries in by truck so Nashville doesn’t run out.

“[W]e have contingencies in place to ensure there is no disruption in our supply,” a McDonald’s spokeswoman told the WSJ.

The new boss

What is causing these logistical problems? There’s a new president and CEO at at CSX: Hunter Harrison – who joined the company in March — was able to turn around two other freight railroads based in Canada. He’s out to do the same at CSX, closing down freight yards, running trains on a tighter schedule, and not running excess equipment.

Harrison noted in an interview with the WSJ that some of the railroad’s employees are “resistant” to the new “efficiency plan” that the railroad is operating under.

The railroad’s union, however, denies that workers are to blame for any of the recent traffic issues.

In a statement, the unions said that they refuse “to accept responsibility for service disruptions that negatively affect the customers when we have no input on operational changes.”