Lumber mills struggle to deliver amid rail car shortage
Shoratge of rail cars for deliveries cutting into mills' bottom lines
Frustration is growing among saw mill and pulp mill owners as a Canadian National rail car shortage is forcing companies to find alternate ways to ship lumber products.
Just as the lumber industry in the province begins to bounce-back due to a more stable homebuilding sector in the U.S., several northern New Brunswick mills have been forced to pay thousands of extra dollars every week to ship lumber to the U.S. by truck due to a shortage in CN rail cars.
A shortage in truck drivers is compounding the problem.
"That tends to be very expensive, and unfortunately there's also a shortage of truckers and available trucks for the industry right now too. So that compounds the issue," said Mark Arsenault, with the New Brunswick Forest Products Association.
Arsenault said the train car shortage is a chronic problem affecting all mills that rely on the service for shipping. He said if it continues, the forestry industry — which employs about 11,000 — will suffer in the province.
"It's a $2-billion industry for the province of New Brunswick," said Arsenault. "New Brunswick is the most forestry-dependent province ... across all of Canada."
Jean-Marc Picard, with the Atlantic Trucking Association, said delivering a shipment on time could mean mills have to pay more money.
"Competitors competing for the same business, and they're all tight on fleet, on drivers. And the supplier moving the product is hard up for someone to move his load. He's going to pay a premium for the company to displace another load to put on his traffic. So you can see premiums starting to go up that way."
Picard said trucking companies are short drivers by as as much as 10 per cent. He said it will take several years before enough drivers can be trained to meet demand.