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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

STB proposes amendment to emergency service rules


The Surface Transportation Board late last week issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend its emergency service rules to provide relief for shippers in situations that require immediate relief.

The proposed rule would clarify that the STB may act on its own initiative to direct emergency rail service, and to establish an accelerated process for acute service emergencies.

Over the past year, the board has heard informally from a range of stakeholders about inconsistent and unreliable rail service. In recent weeks, rail service has become even more unreliable, with most stakeholder concerns focusing on crew shortages and inability to move trains, STB officials said in a press release.

Board members have also heard reports of challenges such as tight car supply and unfilled car orders, delays in transportation for carload and bulk traffic, increased origin dwell time for released unit trains, missed switches and ineffective customer assistance.

As a result of those issues, the board will hold a hearing tomorrow and Wednesday on current rail service problems affecting the network and recovery efforts involving several Class Is. STB staff have met informally with stakeholders who observed that the existing regulations governing expedited relief for service emergencies are inadequate and the process is too prolonged, resulting in the regulations being rarely used, board officials said.

The recent acute service issues have made clear the need for the board to provide the opportunity for shippers to receive swift action to ensure that the nation’s freight-rail traffic continues to move, they said. As a result, the board is also issuing the NPRM.

"For several years, the board has gathered information showing that the existing emergency service rules are too cumbersome to be of use to shippers in need of immediate relief," said STB Chairman Martin Oberman. "This proposed rule would make it possible for a shipper to receive relief in a short, but reasonable, amount of time during an emergency."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/25/2022