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Shipping Delays Involving Union Pacific Yard In Chicago Area Are Leaving Some Small Businesses Stranded

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago has a cargo congestion problem – and for small businesses, that means big problems.

One company has had tens of thousands of dollars 'worth of goods stuck for months at a suburban rail yard. CBS 2's Tim McNicholas showed us the ripple of effects of Chicago's shipping bottleneck.

It was a project born in the pandemic. Gina Thomas and her husband launched a line of can-sized coolers called BITE.

"It'll keep your drink cold," Thomas said. "It also opens up your beer."

They launched, and the orders started rolling in.

"And then all a sudden, everything kind of stopped – because all of our shipments are stuck, here," Thomas said.

"Here" is a Union Pacific yard about 80 miles west of Chicago. Thomas said one stacked freight container at the yard holds more than $20,000 worth of her product.

"That is half of our savings that we've put into this," Thomas said.

And it should have gotten to her address in Fort Wayne, Indiana in late June.

"I've gotten the emails, and I've gotten the messages, you know – where's my BITE?" Thomas said. "They want to use it for the summertime."

We asked Union Pacific about the holdup. This was their full statement:

"International supply chains have been straining under the weight of economic growth since the early stages of the COVID-19 recovery. Container processing at port terminals in Southern California and at our inland intermodal terminals, including Chicago, have experienced significant congestion. We have been working proactively to help ease the congestion in the supply chain, despite the impact to our own service metrics. For example, we recently temporary paused West Coast port shipments moving east to (the Chicago area) to address congestion at inland terminals. We will continue to work closely with the ocean carriers and other stakeholders to address global supply chain challenges, including truck driver and chassis shortages, as well as high warehouse inventory levels."

"Everyone's kind of in the same boat," Thomas said. "I've talked to small business restaurants, I've talked to larger businesses, and the shipments are all just kind of delayed."

A Union Pacific spokesperson also described truck driver shortages and warehouse challenges for logistics companies.

The company that's supposed to be moving the BITE shipment is Vanguard Logistics. The Thomases said they offered Vanguard a solution.

"I know that we've said: 'We'll come in. We'll grab it. We'll bring it out. We'll do that,'" Thomas said. "They wouldn't let us touch it."

So now they still have their dream on ice.

We reached out to Vanguard Logistics and we have not heard back.

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