Amtrak potential service reduction due to staff shortage

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chrsjrcj

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Can Amtrak ask/force conductors and engineers in the Northeast Corridor to relocate to areas where rosters may be deficient?

Most of us here have no knowledge of Amtrak’s staffing requirements, but I hope Congress is prepared to ask Amtrak to justify why a route has reduced service with quantifiable data.
 

AmtrakBlue

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Can Amtrak ask/force conductors and engineers in the Northeast Corridor to relocate to areas where rosters may be deficient?

Most of us here have no knowledge of Amtrak’s staffing requirements, but I hope Congress is prepared to ask Amtrak to justify why a route has reduced service with quantifiable data.
As has been mentioned before, conductors and engineers need to be qualified on routes. It takes time to do that. We don't know if they've asked any to move off the NEC.
 

Amtrakfflyer

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“The company said in the memo that 88.2 percent of its roughly 17,000 workers had been vaccinated late last month, and projected another 6 percent were on track to comply this month. Amtrak said Friday it expects the number “to be slightly higher” by the January deadline.”



It will be telling if management is surgical with the cuts or just another blanket 3x weekly for the long distance routes. I know it’s mostly obs and operating crews but overall Amtrak admits it’s on course to have 97% of employees vaccinated by the deadline. Possibly 3% of employees to be terminated can’t equal 60% cuts in long distance service, even by Amtrak’s warped reasoning.

Management handled furloughs and retirements horribly and now we are in the situation we are in now. The schedule is being run daily now and since most 97%+ employees will be vaccinated by the deadline, is it really as bad as they are making it, are there ways to mitigate it? I don’t see any airline threatening 60 percent schedule reductions, the CEO’s would be fired if they did. Airlines that are lean on crews are offering 2x pay to keep the schedule going. Is Amtrak offering any incentives to employees, or just handing out threats? Has there been any talk of contracting with the freights for front end crews a few days a week to operate the most impacted routes. Would BNSF be willing to help fill a gap in the SWC route? My guess depends on how much Amtrak is willing to pay? Are the freights facing the same cutbacks due to lack of crews as Amtrak is?
 
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AmtrakBlue

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Has there been any talk of contracting with the freights for front end crews a few days a week to operate the most impacted routes. Would BNSF be willing to help fill a gap in the SWC route? My guess depends on how much Amtrak is willing to pay? Are the freights facing the same cutbacks due to lack of crews as Amtrak is?
Do the freights have enough T&E's to run their own trains? I suspect they have shortages, too.
 

HammerJack

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Percentages without numbers are useless. Losing 6% of the workforce can be fatal if the system is already strained to the max using its existing workforce. There comes a point when losing one person has to result in some cut to service. You can’t force someone beyond hours of service
 

neroden

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“The company said in the memo that 88.2 percent of its roughly 17,000 workers had been vaccinated late last month, and projected another 6 percent were on track to comply this month. Amtrak said Friday it expects the number “to be slightly higher” by the January deadline.”



It will be telling if management is surgical with the cuts
Every leak I've had from the inside has said they will be surgical, and will not cut any route where they have enough staff. Period. At this point, I believe that. The last I heard they thought it might affect some of the trains but definitely less than half of them.
 
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The real important statistic that's relevant for whether train personnel should get vaccinated is one that I'm not seeing -- that is the rate of asymptomatic carriers. While it's often stated in these arguments that the vaccines don't prevent infections 100%, I do believe that they prevent infections far better than not being vaccinated at all. This is also true for wearing masks, even basic cloth masks. They don't prevent people from breathing in aerosols or spewing them out 100%, but they do it far better than wearing no mask at all. Doing both (getting vaccinated and wearing a mask) may well reduce the spread of the virus to an insignificant amount. But we'll never know that, will we, as too many people are willing to play Russian Roulette with their health and don't seem to care at all about the other people with whom they may come in contact.

OK, so free citizens might have the right to play such Russian Roulette with their health, but if they want to work on a train or similar conveyance and breathe all over the passengers who are the reason for their jobs, I think they should do everything in their power to protect those passengers, and that would mean getting vaccinated and wearing a mask. Anyway, it seems that over 90% of Amtrak employees are going to be vaccinated, so maybe there won't be any service cutbacks. And if there are, well, that, too will help slow the spread of the virus.
 

desertflyer

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Here's my attempt to really stay razer-focused on topic and within the bounds of what we are allowed to say regarding Amtrak's emergence from the pandemic in this thread.

First of all, we're still within the pandemic and things aren't back to normal. I think it's tough to say when things will full be "normal" again. Regardless, almost every airline and railroad around the US seems to be struggling to maintain their schedules currently. I don't think it's just related to vaccines. In fact, vaccines could help keep staff healthy to maintain schedules, in theory at least.

Although I'm sure running a reduced, 3x weekly schedule would give a lot of breathing room for Amtrak staffing the trains themselves, surely it would help also give time for more equipment to be brought back into service. The reality is that it would likely also be devastating to revenue and long-distance Amtrak service long-term.
 

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In recent months, UP, NS, BNSF and Amtrak have been embroiled in lawsuits filed by rail labor unions, which argue the mandates have to be considered part of the collective bargaining process.
Imagine having to negotiate time sensitive issues like national pandemic response through thousands of multi-year labor contracts. If logic like this had prevailed during the polio outbreak would we still be wearing leg braces and resting in iron lungs? Will those days return if medical mandates are further invalidated? How does this judge envision a meaningful solution getting past his handcuff rulings?
 
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Amtrakfflyer

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For the common good means nothing to 25 percent of us. It’s all ME, ME, ME. As far as Amtrak and it’s passengers it’s a catch 22. If the mandates are all shot down maybe daily service continues, that is until something far worse than losing a few days of train service happens.
 
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Railway Age: Congress, Unions Can Cure Rail Worker Shortage
"With favorable congressional legislation and rail labor union cooperation, Amtrak—and freight railroads—could coax out of retirement recent retirees still in good health who might leap at an opportunity to return to work temporarily while efforts continue to find and train new hires."


If this could be put into place, would enough "recent retirees" return to make a difference?

 

Bob Dylan

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Another article:

I am a little confused. Amtrak says that the reason for the cuts is the vaccine mandate for federal contractors. But the courts have issued a nationwide suspension of the vaccine mandate. Is Amtrak going ahead with the mandate even if they are not (as of now) legally required to do so? Not taking a position on any of this... I am just trying to understand what is actually happening - or not happening.
 

jis

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It is a good question. Maybe some Amtrak insider knows more. It is possible that Amtrak considers itself a federal entity for purposes of this, who knows? Amtrak has in the past acted as if it is this, that or the other, but I doubt that being a federal contractor has been one of their major roles in those cases.

But please, to continue the general discussion of what Amtrak is, let us start a new thread if we must discuss that one more time.
 
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From the article I linked to, above:
Amtrak said it will need to comply with the Jan. 4 mandate that requires employees of government contractors to be fully vaccinated.

So it appears that, as of now, there may be a stay of execution - at least if Amtrak wants.

It's pretty amazing how just 5% of a workforce can cause such a disruption in service - but 5% equates to quite a few people.

It would not surprise me if they are doing everything they can to get employees vaccinated, but then back off of service reductions at the last minute.
 

HammerJack

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Im booked on the Empire Builder out of Seattle on 1/12 (Wednesday), which is one of the “off” days when it ran on tri-weekly schedules. What do you all think: am I safe or at risk of a cancellation?
 

jis

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From the article I linked to, above:
Amtrak said it will need to comply with the Jan. 4 mandate that requires employees of government contractors to be fully vaccinated.

So it appears that, as of now, there may be a stay of execution - at least if Amtrak wants.

It's pretty amazing how just 5% of a workforce can cause such a disruption in service - but 5% equates to quite a few people.

It would not surprise me if they are doing everything they can to get employees vaccinated, but then back off of service reductions at the last minute.
Good catch. I missed that.

I suspect Amtrak is covering its bases should the challenge fail and informing Congress what is within the realm of possibilities then. Afterall because there is a hold today does not mean there will be one in January at least in principle.

Of relevance to this thread is that if the challenge to the mandate stands and if Amtrak chooses not to require its employees to be vaccinated anyway, then there is a reprieve. The suit as far as I understand is about whether the President has the authority to make such a mandate, and not about whether an individual corporation can require vaccination as a condition for continued employment. That is a different set of cases. Amtrak also has a case filed by its Unions on this matter, but similar cases filed against airlines have failed in the past.

It is also possible that there are very few cancellations because staffing can be squeezed out from among those who have vaccinated. As it stands it appears that the greatest danger of cancellations are for trains that depend on staffing points with small boards, i.e. Western LD trains, if it comes to that.

Im booked on the Empire Builder out of Seattle on 1/12 (Wednesday), which is one of the “off” days when it ran on tri-weekly schedules. What do you all think: am I safe or at risk of a cancellation?
Since all indications are that any cancellations should they take place will be surgical and not across the board tri-weekly there is better than even chance that you will be fine. But only time will tell.

Again, let us please move any general vaccine mandate law suits discussion to a thread dedicated to such. I think we have pretty much covered most service reduction related aspects of it here already.

Let us focus this thread on what specifics we learn about actual service reductions as they develop, and any reliable rumors (heh heh) about staffing issues at the smaller crew bases, such as any insiders may know of and be willing to share.
 
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