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The Surface Transportation Board late last week announced it will require certain railroads to submit service recovery plans, additional data and regular progress reports on rail service, operations and employment.
The information is requested to inform the board's assessment of further actions that may be warranted to address the acute service issues facing the rail industry and to promote industry-wide transparency, accountability and improvements in rail service, STB officials said in a press release.
The STB's announcement follows its April 26-27 hearing, during which the board received testimony on severe rail-service issues from rail shippers, customers, labor, industry experts and government officials.
The board has also continued to review and monitor weekly rail service performance data that indicates trends in deteriorating service. The decision focuses on the adequacy of recovery efforts involving BNSF Railway Co., CSX, Norfolk Southern Railway and Union Pacific Railroad.
Evidence produced at the hearing “is overwhelming that the railroads’ longstanding practice of reducing operating ratios by cutting employment levels, mothballing locomotives and eliminating other essential resources are the central reasons why farmers have been hours away from depopulating herds, manufacturing facilities have reduced operating hours and shippers cannot get their products to market on time or receive essential raw materials for their companies,” said STB Chairman Martin Oberman.
Requiring more data from the railroads may not be the final result of the hearing, Oberman added.
"[Last week’s] decision is an immediate step the board can take to enable needed monitoring of the improved efforts the railroads have been promising for months, and to determine if additional regulatory steps are necessary to promote reliable service," he said.
The decision calls on all Class Is to submit several specific reports on rail service, performance and employment. In addition, BNSF, CSX, NS and UP are required to submit service recovery plans, progress reports, historical data and participate in bi-weekly conference calls with STB staff.