Plastics firms hopeful about STB rail ruling WASHINGTON — Federal regulators' decision to halt railroad mergers for 15 months is giving plastics companies another chance to push their proposals for increased competition in the rail system.
The Surface Transportation Board announced its unprecedented moratorium March 17, saying it was concerned additional mergers would consolidate the country's four major railroads into just two.
The Canadian National Railway Co., which wants to merge with the Burlington Northern Sante Fe Corp., immediately challenged the decision in court.
The American Plastics Council said STB's decision is a "good first step," but said the agency should focus on encouraging more competition.
Officials with the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. could not be reached.
"It looks like they are acknowledging this is not working," said Mike Heimowitz, spokesman for the Chemical Manufacturers Association in Arlington, Va. "We keep doing mergers and we keep having nightmares with service for a year and a half, and then the service stabilizes at a lower level."
The Alliance for Rail Competition, a Washington shippers group, said STB may be reconsidering some key underpinnings of rail policy. But Diane Duff, ARC executive director, said it is "somewhat appalling [for the STB] to say at this late stage we don't really have a merger policy."
NAM outlines costs of ergonomics rules
WASHINGTON — Proposed federal ergonomics rules will cost small manufacturers $781 per employee during the first year they take effect, according to a new survey from the National Association of Manufacturers.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's ergonomics proposal will hurt manufacturers, Donald Rainville, president of Universal Dynamics Inc., said at a NAM news conference March 21 in Washington.
Rainville said the rules will cost Una-Dyn, an auxiliary equipment manufacturer in Woodbridge, Va., about $2,000-$3,000 per worker. Because the company cannot raise prices or lower material expenditures much, it will have to reduce labor costs or boost productivity, he said.
Universal makes dryers, loaders and blenders. Rainville said 50 percent of his company's capital spending last year went toward ergonomic equipment like forklifts.
The equipment has boosted productivity, but ergonomic injuries have gone up, for reasons that are not clear, Rainville said.
OSHA contends that U.S. manufacturers will save money from increased productivity and lower workers' compensation costs.
OSHA also has said it will give manufacturers credit for existing ergonomics programs.
Washington-based NAM said its figures came from a detailed survey of about 100 small and medium-size manufacturers.
NAM did not ask what manufacturers thought they could save in the long run from OSHA's proposal.