Reported by Marybeth Luczak for Railway Age.
Transportation Trades Department (TTD), AFL-CIO President Greg Regan is urging a bipartisan group of lawmakers to support legislation reauthorizing the Surface Transportation Board (STB). His agenda: to clarify the railroads’ common carrier obligation and to provide “more effective mechanisms” for the STB to enforce it.
TTD’s Regan made his request in a June 28 letter to 21 U.S. senators, who outlined their concerns about rail service disruptions in a May 23 STB filing. (Download Regan’s letter below.)
“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,’” Regan wrote. “The STB has general standards regarding reasonable rates. 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. …”
He included a joint rail union-shipper statement seeking congressional action “to better define the ‘reasonable service’ portion of the railroads’ common carrier obligations and to grant the STB with an effective and expedited enforcement process. …”
Regan also pointed out that “[i]n the six years leading up to the pandemic, the major ‘Class I’ freight railroads reduced their total workforce by 30%, or roughly 45,000 workers, and reduced their equipment.” That headcount reduction “and the stark decline in rail service for shippers are inextricably linked,” he wrote. “Despite working around the clock, the remaining rail workforce is simply not large enough to meet the current volume and demand for freight rail.”
TTD recognizes that the “STB has utilized its existing authority to respond to the service problems” and appreciates “all that the agency has done,” Regan wrote. But he urged the senators “to support legislation to provide the STB with additional authority to ensure the reasonable service that shippers deserve and that is necessary for the railroads to satisfy their common carrier obligations.”
Read more here.