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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Letters citing rail service crisis continue to circulate at STB


Surface Transportation Board members and other federal officials continue to hear from rail shippers and other rail industry stakeholders about ongoing freight-rail service issues and the supply-chain crisis.

This week, more than 50 Democratic and Republican members of Congress asked the STB to address the problems, particularly those disrupting U.S. food production.

In a June 29 joint letter, the lawmakers asked the STB to continue working with stakeholders to address short-term challenges in rail shipments of fertilizer and other essential agricultural inputs and commodities, including grain and feed.

"At a time when global fertilizer supplies and global crop production are highly disrupted, imposing shipping curtailments on fertilizer inputs and grain, as recently proposed by Union Pacific, will cause major supply-chain disruptions, hurt American farmers and exacerbate the food crisis considerably," the lawmakers wrote. "We must ensure critical commodities reach essential industries and workers, such as America’s farmers, who are essential to feeding our nation and the world. Food is a national security issue, and we must treat it as such."

The lawmakers' entire letter can be read here.

Meanwhile, the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO on June 28 called on U.S. senators to encourage Congress to better define the "reasonable service" portion of railroads' common-carrier obligations and to grant the STB a more effective process to help shippers obtain "reasonable service" from freight railroads.

"We recognize that the STB has utilized its existing authority to respond to the service problems and appreciate all that the agency has done," wrote TTD President Greg Regan. "However, additional action is needed to address the continuing and serious nature of these service problems and the railroads’ failure to act willfully to fix the problems that they created."

Regan's letter can be read here.

In April, the STB held a two-day hearing on shippers' complaints about recent rail service issues. In response, the board asked four Class Is — BNSF Railway Co., CSX, Norfolk Southern Railway and UP — to file service recovery plans that would specifically describe their remedial initiatives and promote a clearer vantage point into operating conditions on their rail networks.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/1/2022