Reported by Joanna Marsh for Freightwaves.
The Transportation Trades Department is asking Congressional senators to consider revising the common carrier obligation so its meaning is more clear and enforceable.
The common carrier obligation defines the freight railroads’ role in delivering bulk goods, and the Surface Transportation Board uses it as a basis in rendering decisions.
“It is clear that the major U.S. freight railroads are failing to meet their statutory ‘common carrier’ obligation to provide freight rail customers with ‘reasonable service’ at ‘reasonable rates.’ …,” TTD President Greg Regan said in a Tuesday letter to 21 senators. “However, the non-specific language used, and lack of details, in the current statute have resulted in uncertainty for both shippers and carriers and made enforcement of the obligation extremely challenging. Therefore, we urge you to help remedy this crisis by supporting legislation reauthorizing the Surface Transportation Board that would 1) clearly define this element of the ‘common carrier’ obligation and 2) provide the STB with more effective mechanisms to enforce this obligation.”
The 21 senators, representing both Democrats and Republicans, signed a May 23 letter asking STB Chairman Marty Oberman to address recent rail service disruptions.
In the letter, Regan said U.S. rail unions and rail shipper associations have signed a joint statement of common carrier principles that could help Congress define what should constitute reasonable service.
Regan also urged senators to draft legislation that would expand STB’s ability to ensure the common carrier obligation is met. Expanding STB’s role is something some industry stakeholders advocate as Congress takes up the reauthorization of STB in later sessions.
Read more here.