Trucking industry suffering due to railway, road closures because of flooding

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Flooding across Missouri is having a ripple effect on the transportation industry.

Norfolk Southern trains, in and out of Kansas City, have virtually been at a standstill for more than two weeks. The company’s last remaining route into the city is underwater, according to an alert issued May 23.

Larry King is the traffic manager for Whimsy Trucking, an intermodal company that moves freight containers throughout the region. He said they’ve had containers stored in their yard since May 22.

“That’s [around the time] the embargo started,” King said. “They thought it was just going to be a few days, and then more breaches of levees caused more problems.”

Whimsy Trucking relies heavily on the railroads. The company is currently transporting about 80-100 containers per week. King said it was double that number before the floods.

“The northern routes got affected with the floods up in Iowa and Nebraska, and now the eastern routes have been affected with the floods throughout Missouri,” he said. “This is the worst I’ve seen it. The ‘93 flooding was bad, but it didn’t affect us as much as this has.”

Mike Martin is one of 30 drivers who works for King. He owns and operates his own truck, meaning he pays a lot of expenses that would typically be covered by an employer.

“I have to pay my own work comp, my own truck payments, my own maintenance, my own insurance, my own wages, my own health insurance,” Martin said.

He said the rail closures have put a strain on his finances, but navigating the roads is equally stressful. There are hundreds of road closures across the state due to flooding.

“That adds extra miles and extra fuel, and sometimes the rates don’t increase because they’re bid rate for a quarter or a year, and you’ve got extra expense going out to make that same run,” Martin explained.

He and King are monitoring the weather and river levels, hoping for some relief.

“When the water recedes and the rail lines open back up, I imagine we will be very busy. We will be very happy then,” Martin said.

On Tuesday, Norfolk Southern released an updated alert, stating that its closures would remain in place until conditions improve. However, the company warned that it will take several weeks before their tracks are fully restored.

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