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U.S. Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) last week urged the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to examine rail service delays the senators claim are negatively impacting the auto industry.Rail delays have cost the auto industry millions of dollars in storage fees, alternate transportation costs and vehicle shortages at dealerships, said Levin and Portman — who co-chair the Senate Auto Caucus — in a press release."These concerns were brought to the Surface Transportation Board’s attention in [an April] letter from the Auto Alliance," they wrote to the STB on July 8. "We wish to reiterate the issues raised in the letter and urge the STB to closely monitor this situation and work with the railroads to resolve the delays."Winter weather often causes seasonal rail service delays, and this past winter was particularly severe, but other factors have exacerbated rail service disruptions nationwide, the senators said. The factors include a shortage of rail cars and an inadequate response to ameliorate the shortage, month-over-month growth in auto production and auto exports as the industry rebounds from the recession, and the crude-by-rail boom that's absorbing significant rail capacity, Levin and Portman wrote."This situation has significantly impacted the ability of automakers to deliver products to consumers," they said. Referencing an April 23 Wall Street Journal article, the senators cited a backlog of nearly 160,000 finished automobiles that were awaiting rail transport at the time."This backlog costs automakers tens of millions of dollars in storage fees and alternative means of transporting vehicles, and has resulted in vehicle shortages at some dealerships across the country," they wrote.
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