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STB to streamline shippers' large-road rate challenges

Surface Transportation Board Sept. 4 announced plans to amend regulations that it expects would more quickly resolve large-railroad rate challenges.

The proposed regulations would expedite discovery (through which parties seek information from each other) and require parties to engage in mediation before filing a rate complaint.

The board now reviews large road rate cases using "stand-alone cost" (SAC) methodology. During the past few years, STB has tried to expedite the resolution process by simplifying market-dominance procedures, standardizing SAC evidentiary procedures and imposing various processing deadlines.

But delays in resolving large rate cases continue to be a concern, mainly
because many cases revolve around discovery disputes, which ultimately are brought to the board to resolve, according to a prepared statement.

STB now plans to establish more restrictive standards for obtaining discovery in large rate cases so that parties would know in advance that they shouldn't try to obtain certain types of information; and allow informal conferences among agency staff and affected parties to narrow disputed issues and quicken rulings on remaining discovery impasses.

The board also plans to require the shipper filing the rate case to engage in non-binding mediation prior to filing a formal complaint. A mediator would be assigned to work with all parties to try to reach a settlement within a specified time frame. (STB wouldn't impose filing fees for mediation requests and would pay for the mediator's services.)

If the parties fail to reach a settlement, the shipper then could file a formal rate complaint with STB.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/4/2002