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The U.S. House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials earlier this week held a hearing on Surface Transportation Board reauthorization, with speakers testifying on the board’s role in improving rail service.
Following are excerpts of some of those who testified.
"Activist investors out to make short-term profits with the railroads have gotten nearly $200 billion in stock buybacks since 2010, and I am concerned about the long-term viability of America’s freight railroads. My goal is to foster a healthy freight rail market that boosts the overall economy and reduces carbon emissions. Wall Street’s goal is to get wealthier — no matter the impact on our economy, environment, transportation system or workforce." — House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.)"I am concerned about ... the use of precision scheduled railroading, or PSR, by freight railroads. This practice claims to make railroading more efficient by running fewer trains, but I have significant concerns that it reduces safety by cutting the number of workers and creating very long trains that can stretch for a mile or longer. According to the STB, at the end of last year, the Class I railroad workforce was nearly a third less the size it was in 2015. … Instead of having a robust and flexible workforce to absorb supply chain disruptions, PSR apparently created its own worker shortage when workers were needed the most.” — Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.)
"Freight railroads are doing their part to maintain network fluidity and ensure there is sufficient capacity to deliver the goods upon which our economy depends through significant investments in their infrastructure and equipment, development of innovative technologies, cooperation with customers and supply chain partners and operational enhancements. Overreaching, unnecessary regulations by the STB put our nation’s rail advantage at risk. Congress must continue to make clear that a return to an unbalanced regulatory environment for railroads would ultimately diminish the quality of rail service and undermine the efficiency of supply chains." — Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ian Jefferies
"ACC supports the STB’s proposal to change its restrictive rules on reciprocal switching. This key reform, which has been pending since 2016, would finally provide greater access to competitive rail service. ... Reciprocal switching will unlock market forces to help provide competitive transportation rates, open up more service options and ease congested routes. We also support the board’s efforts to streamline its procedures by adopting … Final Offer Rate Review. This new policy would provide a more useful alternative to the board’s outdated and burdensome rate review standards that have proven to be unworkable for most shippers." — American Chemistry Council President and CEO Chris Jahn