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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

STB addresses Chicago rail performance, BNSF's utility coal service


The Surface Transportation Board (STB) on Wednesday announced it issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding new regulations that would require all Class Is and the Chicago Transportation Coordination Office (CTCO) to report certain service performance metrics to the board on a weekly basis.

The action originates from the STB's temporary data collection order issued Oct. 8, 2014, in a proceeding on U.S. rail service issues, board members said in a press release. The NPRM follows concerns expressed at the board's public hearings and in other communications regarding the need for standardized performance data in the Chicago area.

The Class Is and the CTCO — through its Class I members — would need to report certain service performance metrics each week. The weekly performance data collection will enable the STB to not only better understand current service issues, but more quickly identify and help resolve possible regional or national service disruptions in the future, board members said.

"Transparency would also benefit rail shippers and stakeholders by helping them to better plan operations and make informed decisions based on publicly available, near real-time data, and their own analysis of performance trends over time," they said.

Meanwhile, the STB also announced it's directing BNSF Railway Co. to submit a detailed description of its contingency plans to mitigate potential inventory shortages for utility coal shippers. The order is in response to a petition submitted by the Western Coal Traffic League expressing concern about potential impacts of poor rail service on coal stockpiles and utilities' ability to generate power reliably.

"As BNSF works to address its coal transportation challenges, more specific information on its coal service contingency planning is necessary," STB members said. "The board [also] is inviting coal stakeholders to submit status reports to so that [we] can obtain a full range of perspectives regarding coal service."

Yesterday, the STB also announced Chairman Daniel Elliott’s term has ended. Deb Miller now serves as acting chair until President Barack Obama designates a new chairman. In addition, Ann Begeman now serves as vice chair.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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