Three known cases of coronavirus reported at two Class I railroads

A composite image. On the left are the words "coronavirus update," with a close-up image of the virus strain. On the right is a photograph of a train.

Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) and Canadian Pacific (NYSE: CP) each have employees who have contracted the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

Union Pacific’s (UP) employee worked at the Bailey yard in North Platte, Nebraska. The employee had been on an international cruise, and the employee reported symptoms to one of UP’s nurses, who then followed company protocols, according to UP spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza. That employee and others who the employee worked with are in self-quarantine, she said, and they have been interviewed by the local health department. UP has thoroughly cleared the area where the employee worked, Espinoza said.

“We have been following the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines as they evolve and continue to implement numerous measures to maintain a healthy environment,” Espinoza said. She added that UP has increased the availability of cleaning supplies to employees, and the railroad has adopted practices such as closing facilities to non-essential guests and increasing the number of cleanings throughout the day.

CP also has employees who have contracted COVID-19. Two employees who work at CP’s headquarters in Calgary, Alberta, have the virus, and their infections appear to be unrelated, according to a CP spokeswoman Salem Woodrow. Both employees are being treated and those who were in contact with the employees are also in self-quarantine, Woodrow said. CP has also thoroughly cleaned the areas that the two employees frequented, and the employees in self-quarantine will not return to work until they have been cleared by the local health department.

“Even though the risk to other employees is low, CP is acting out of an abundance of caution and in the best interests of our workforce and their families,” Woodrow said. “Through the efforts of our pandemic planning team, which includes key stakeholders from across the company, CP has a proactive, comprehensive plan to ensure the health and safety of our employees while facilitating business continuity.”

For anyone who has contracted COVID-19, UP said on its website that it will quarantine the employee and work with the employee’s medical team to provide care. It will also decontaminate the affected facility and/or field work equipment, and it will monitor impacted employees per recommendations from the CDC and local health departments. 

UP has asked employees to practice social distancing and it banned all non-essential travel.

UP provides coronavirus guidance

As of March 18, UP’s rail network is fluid and there have been no service impacts as a result of the coronavirus, according to UP. 

Inbound traffic to the Port of Oakland also remains open despite “shelter-in-place” orders given in seven counties of the greater San Francisco Bay area.

“As a critical freight transportation operation in the region, it is Union Pacific’s intention to maintain normal operations at its Oakland, California intermodal terminal,” UP said in a March 17 notification. “Please note, it is imperative that inbound traffic to Oakland continue to outgate on a timely basis to avoid disruptions to the inbound supply line.”

UP has a section on its website dedicated to updates related to the coronavirus, with one section for customers, another for employees and a third for suppliers.

The railroad said the “fluid situation” of the outbreak may require UP to implement its pandemic operating plan, which consists of a command center staffed by essential operations personnel prepared to respond to various scenarios, UP said. Functions that the command center may perform should any supply changes or disruption occur include transportation plan adjustments, traffic diversions and equipment planning.

The railroad asked customers to notify the company of expected freight shipment timing to ensure the proper position of resources. UP also asked suppliers to inform the railroad whether suppliers expect a shortage of products so that UP and the supplier are able to respond in a timely fashion to anticipated volume changes.

UP also told suppliers to communicate with the railroad if they are preparing for domestic interruptions. UP asked suppliers to inform the railroad if they are seeing impact to their supply chains, whether the suppliers have contingency plans in place and whether they have insights on the international supply chain.