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Union leader asks senators to give STB more power to deal with rail service issues

By Admin

Reported by Trains.

The leader of a federation of rail and other unions has written a group of U.S. senators asking that Congress give the Surface Transportation Board more power to enforce railroads’ common-carrier obligations as a way to address ongoing service issues.

Tuesday’s letter from Greg Regan, president of the Transportation Trades Division, AFL-CIO — comprised of 37 unions, including some in the rail industry — urged a group of 21 senators to support legislation that would more clearly define the common-carrier obligation, which currently requires “reasonable service” at “reasonable rates.”

“The non-specific language used, and lack of details, in the current statute has resulted in uncertainty for both shippers and carriers and made enforcement of the obligation extremely challenging,” Regan wrote. He included a joint statement by unions and rail shipper groups of common-carrier principles and urging legislative action to better define “reasonable service,” and to give the STB “an effective and expedited enforcement process.”

Regan’s letter cites the reduction of the Class I workforce by 45,000 workers, along with reduced motive-power fleets, as the source of the ongoing service issues. “The railroads shaped a freight rail network that cannot reasonably respond to the country’s supply change challenges,” he wrote, “and in some cases they even created new challenges in the supply chain. … The dramatic reduction in headcount and the stark decline in rail service for shippers are inextricably linked.”

The senators who received Regan’s letter had written STB chairman Martin Oberman in May, calling on the STB to “examine all constructive options” to improve rail service. Noting this, Regan said his union appreciated that letter, but also recognizing “that the STB has utilized its existing authority to respond to the service problems and appreciate all that the agency has done.

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