The 60 people laid off by Pasha Automotive Services last month are now back to work, General Manager Matt Raasch said Friday.
“We are back to full swing and have recalled the layoff 100 percent,” Raasch said. “For the past two weeks, Pasha has been pushing over 3,000 new arrivals through the Port (of Grays Harbor).”
Another 3,800 automobiles have been loaded onto trains and are headed for Grays Harbor, he added. Pasha is scheduled to process more than 10,000 vehicles this month.
It’s a stark turnaround from the empty lots at Terminal 4 in the previous month. The temporary layoffs were the result of a combination of problems reaching across the country.
“It was a snowballing effect from the harsh weather back east, along with a rail car shortage and probably a locomotive shortage as well,” Raasch said at the time.
The harsh winter in the Midwest and Northeast meant that it took longer for things to thaw out and get the rail lines running again.
In a letter to the federal Surface Transportation Board in April, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said the issue was bigger than bad weather.
“Were this the only source of delay — and this more extreme winter the exception in terms of disruptions — automakers would understand,” wrote President and CEO Mitch Bainwol. “But, extreme weather is not entirely to blame. The railroads have been slow to react to this problem.”
Some cars remained in storage despite the annual problem of winter restrictions, and others have been moved down to Mexico where other plants have ramped up production.
“A systematic problem inherent in the rail system appears to be the limited competitive pressure within the rail industry to improve service,” Bainwol continued. “… The carriers’ poor service has deteriorated even more over the past two months. While the supply of rail cars has improved slightly, auto manufacturers are still short approximately 1,000 rail cars every day. Unfortunately, the carriers have not been able to provide any meaningful assurances of when auto manufacturers should expect to see any improvement in service. Vague promises that service will improve soon have translated into insignificant, slow and irregular progress.”
For now, suppliers seem to have been able to overcome the problems, which had been diverting many automobile shipments to Virginia. Pasha expects to move 2,800 cars per week.