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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

STB to UP: Employment data must be public; Ancora responds to Oberman's criticism


Editor's note: This article has been updated to include UP's statement about the STB decision.

The Surface Transportation Board yesterday announced that it denied Union Pacific Railroad’s request to keep certain required, temporary employment-data reporting confidential.

The board also directs UP to submit public versions of previously submitted data. UP made its request after the board decided to extend the employment data requirement to Dec. 31, and required UP and some of the other Class Is to update other information about their operations.

Yesterday's decision denies UP's petition and directed the Class I to file public versions of its Feb. 15 and Feb. 29 data submissions within five days.

The board's decision emphasizes its commitment to transparency, said STB Chairman Martin Oberman in a press release.

"While the board takes seriously confidentiality concerns, UP has not demonstrated that releasing this employment data would cause competitive harm," Oberman said. "On the contrary, given the crucial importance of reporting on employment data to the restoration of robust rail service and the growth of the national economy, the public’s right of access to this information is paramount. Indeed, the other railroads have reported their data publicly and understand the public interest in knowing this information."

The board's decision can be viewed here.

The STB's order requiring the Class Is — specifically UP, BNSF Railway Co., CSX and Norfolk Southern Railway — to submit reports on their employment trends and service recovery plans followed an April 2022 public hearing on freight-rail service problems. The board decided Jan. 31 to extend the reporting requirement deadline to the end of this year.

UP officials expressed disappointment with the STB's decision in a prepared statement.

"We believe some of the data is sensitive and could provide our competitors an advantage," they said. "We continue to provide the information requested by the STB and share the same goal — a safe operating environment where we provide the service we promised our customers."

Meanwhile, Ancora Holdings Group LLC yesterday responded to Oberman's March 8 letter in which he expressed disappointment that the activist investor group had yet to schedule a meeting with him to discuss its proposal to overhaul Norfolk Southern Railway’s board and executive leadership.

Last month, the Ancora-led investor group, which holds a large equity stake in NS, announced the nomination of eight independent candidates for election to the NS board. Ancora wants to replace NS President and CEO Alan Shaw, and has proposed new executive leadership that includes former United Parcel Service Inc. executive Jim Barber Jr. as CEO and former CSX executive Jamie Boychuk as chief operating officer. Boychuk had experience implementing scheduled railroading practices at CSX.

Oberman has been openly critical of Ancora's campaign. In a March 14 letter (available here), Ancora officials suggested that they meet with Oberman and STB members after mid-April, when the group expects to file its 100-day and initial operating plan with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Ancora also takes issue with Oberman’s comments on their intent, "because we believe our views and plans have not been accurately conveyed," the letter states.

"We, along with our proposed director candidates and suggested management, have a deep understanding of how freight moves, and we are not advocating for the 'same old corporate strategy,'" Ancora wrote.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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