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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

STB seeks Class Is' response to rail service complaints


The Surface Transportation Board (STB) is asking all Class Is to send the board their service outlooks for 2018.

The request, which the board sent to all Class I executives last week, was made in response to concerns the board has received from two major rail shipper associations about deteriorating service.

"In recent weeks, the board has become increasingly concerned about the overall state of rail service based on the weekly data collected by the board," states the STB's March 16 letter to one of the Class I chief executive officers. "Although there are exceptions, most Class I railroads' data indicate that service is deteriorating."

Recently, the STB heard from the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which both "voiced similar serious concerns about the reliability of the nation's freight network," the STB letter states.

Both shipper groups' letters, which described significant degradation in rail service in recent months, are posted on the STB website.

The STB is asking Class Is to report back on their locomotive availability; employee resources, including current train and engine employee headcount and managerial resources; local service performance, including locations where performance is trending below norms; this year's service demand; communication with shippers; and capacity constraints.

In its letter to the STB, the automobile alliance noted that its members experienced a serious shortage of bi-level and tri-level rail cars for transporting finished vehicles in February and the situation "has worsened in March."

In their letter to the STB, grain shippers expressed their belief that the root cause of the service decline is the "Class I railroads' aggressive effort to reduce their operating ratios to impress Wall Street investors and shareholders."

"This, in turn, has resulted in the systemic shedding of resources by Class I carriers, including locomotives and crews, that has degraded service to unacceptable levels, and resulted in virtually nonexistent surge capacity to meet rail customers' needs," states the NGFA's March 10 letter to the STB.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/20/2018