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Rail industry faces shortage of qualified workers

The rising cost of fuel is resulting in an increase in the intermodal process of placing tractor-trailers onto rail cars. The highway trailer or container chassis can accommodate up to 150 53-foot trailers for medium-length hauls between urban areas.

"One freight train can carry as much cargo as 500 trucks and one intermodal container train can carry nearly 300 truck trailers," claims Edward Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads.

Ken Kertesz, Pennsylvania Legislative Board of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen chairman and a labor leader for the rail industry, projects a shortage of engineers in his state of Pennsylvania. "While rail service increases, our railroads face an urgent shortage of qualified, well-trained men and women to operate and manage the rail systems. Our existing work force is aging and increasingly stressed to keep up with the influx in rail traffic. We're seeing need estimates that range from 60,000 to 210,000 new rail labor workers over the next decade. We are looking at ways to work more closely with railroad management to address these shortages," Kertesz says.

The Department of Transportation has recently estimated that freight traffic will double in the near future and it will require greater levels of investment in the infrastructure, equipment, labor and security of the rail system in order to meet the demands of future rail business.

Sharon Daboin, Deputy Secretary of Aviation and Railroads for PennDOT, notes, "Rail freight in Pennsylvania can provide opportunities for economic development in the 21st Century. Efficient freight and goods mobility is critical to local jobs and businesses, as well as to the supplies of food and services that we take for granted."

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