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By Julie Sneider, Assistant Editor
North American freight railroads plan to hire 15,000 people in 2011, according to the Association of American Railroads’ (AAR) top executive.
During a press teleconference organized June 15 by the BlueGreen Alliance, AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Hamberger said his informal survey of AAR members indicated the industry will hire closer to 15,000 employees this year — 5,000 more than the figure of 10,000 he cited in a March 9 teleconference.
“I have been advised by my members that the number of 10,000 is on the low side,” he said during the June 15 teleconference, which the BlueGreen Alliance called to highlight a new report that shows the relationship between investment in freight rail infrastructure and job creation.
The railroads’15,000 new hires in 2011 will include replacing employees who retire. However, the hiring trend also reflects the industry’s response to increasing carload traffic as the economy continues to recover, Hamberger said. Anecdotally, AAR members have told him many of those hires will be in train and engineering crews to accommodate traffic growth, he said.
“We are seeing growth in about every commodity sector except for housing,” said Hamberger, adding that slow and steady traffic growth likely will continue for the rest of 2011.
Freight-rail hiring and job creation was the subject of the BlueGreen Alliance’s new
report, “Gauging Growth: The Freight Rail Supply Chain and Job-Creation Potential.”
It is essential that the United States build a 21st Century infrastructure that supports the more efficient movement of goods” and creates jobs, BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director David Foster said during the teleconference.
The report, citing various case studies, underscores the freight rail industry’s “ability to sustain private investments in the national rail network that will create quality jobs while reducing pollution and breaking our dependence on foreign oil,” he said.
For every $1 billion in freight rail capital investment, 7,800 “green” jobs are created or sustained, the report said. In 2011 alone, freight railroads will invest more than $12 billion in capital expenditures, Hamberger noted.
In addition, freight rail is a more efficient mode of transporting bulk goods, especially over long distances. Railroads can move a ton of freight 484 miles on one gallon of fuel. Trucking uses four times the energy to move freight on a per-ton basis, the report stated.
“As the U.S. economy gets back on track, freight movement will expand, requiring corresponding infrastructure investment,” the report stated. “By growing capacity, the freight rail industry can seize significant opportunities to meet projected demand for shipping cargo, save energy, reduce pollution and create tens of thousands of new jobs throughout the economy.”