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Rail, shipper and labor representatives yesterday testified on rail industry supply-chain "resilience and challenges" at a hearing called by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Rail, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.
Chaired by U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas), the subcommittee members heard testimony from and asked questions of Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ian Jefferies, American Short Line Regional Railroad Association President Chuck Baker, American Chemistry Council President and CEO Chris Jahn and Transportation Trades Department (TTD) AFL-CIO President Greg Regan.
AAR's Jefferies called on Congress to encourage the use of innovative technologies and streamline permitting on railroads’ infrastructure projects. He also addressed the rail industry’s major challenges and what railroads are doing about them. Those challenges include shippers’ complaints about freight-rail service; safety concerns stemming from the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio; and employee relations in the aftermath of last year’s national contract negotiations.
"Railroads are committed to collaborating with all stakeholders — the [Federal Railroad Administration], the Surface Transportation Board, their customers, their employees, elected officials and many others — to attain the common goal of enhancing rail safety and keeping the goods that power our economy moving," Jefferies said in his written testimony.
ASLRRA’s Baker told the panel what Congress can do to help short lines improve the supply chain: support funding — such as the federal Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program — for short lines’ infrastructure projects; support federal relief for short lines disrupted by natural disasters; oppose efforts to increase the size and weight of commercial trucks; support RailPulse and future technology that improves visibility and management of resources; and encourage regulations that keep pace with modern technology, such as automated track inspection.
ACC's Jahn told subcommittee members that freight-rail service problems are continuing for shippers. Policymakers need to adopt policies — such as reciprocal switching requirements — that give railroads the incentives to improve service to customers, Jahn said.