Shipments between the United States and Mexico of everything from cars, auto parts and beer to appliances, raw materials and energy products could be disrupted if railroad unions and railways fail to reach an agreement and that the employees go on strike on Friday.

More than 140,000 rail and rail-related employees negotiate for everything from time off to sick pay, health care, train crew sizes and raises.

“A railroad strike would be that one, maybe two giant step back as the United States tries to find its way to avoid a recession and fight inflation that continues to defy,” Ken said. Roberts, founder and president of WorldCity, a media company focused on the impact of import-export trade on the nation’s ports and border crossings. “A multitude of American imports and exports depend on rail.”

Trade between the United States and Mexico totaled $661 billion in 2021, according to data from the United States Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Rail moved more than $84 billion worth of goods across the US-Mexico border last year, with more than 246,000 loaded rail containers passing through the port of entry in Laredo, Texas.

Mexico’s beer and auto parts, as well as U.S. oil and petroleum exports to Mexico could be hurt if workers and the railroads cannot end their standoff, Roberts said.

He said beer from Mexico is a good example of how a railroad strike could affect imports.

“Fifty-six percent of beer entering the United States passes through the small town of Eagle Pass, Texas, which is the closest border crossing to the world’s largest brewery in Nava, Mexico,” Roberts said. “Almost every drop of this beer, Mexican brands like Corona and Dos Equis, crosses the border by rail.”

In addition to a railroad bridge, the Eagle Pass port of entry has a commercial truck bridge and a cargo inspection facility. Roberts said a strike by railroad workers could force beer shipments that usually travel by rail to the truck bridge.

“The change from rail to truck would not be without complications, complicated by not knowing how long the change would take, but at least bridge capacity shouldn’t be an issue,” Roberts said. “Finding drivers and trailers might be, but bridge capacity shouldn’t.”

Texas is a key connection point for rail traffic from Mexico, with Class I railroads such as BNSF, Union Pacific, CSX and Kansas City Southern operating major intermodal facilities across the state.

Texas also has more than 17,000 railroad employees and approximately 10,460 miles of railroad. According to the Association of American Railroads, more rail shipments end their journey in Texas than anywhere else in the country.

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