On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I offer my strong support for Robert Primus to serve another term on the Surface Transportation Board (STB). I urge the Members of the Senate Commerce Committee to favorably report his nomination out of the Committee and encourage his confirmation by the full Senate.
In 1996, Congress established the STB as the successor to the Interstate Commerce Commission and tasked it with the economic regulation of freight rail. The STB operated in alignment with the U.S. Department of Transportation until Congress deemed it a wholly independent federal agency through the 2015 STB Reauthorization Act.
As a labor federation representing 37 labor unions, including the totality of rail labor, TTD has a vested interest in ensuring the STB promotes the economic wellbeing and success of the freight rail industry. Given Mr. Primus’ record of service as a current Board Member, we firmly believe he is more than qualified to serve a second term.
During his current term, Mr. Primus has demonstrated an expert understanding of the economic state of the railroad industry, including widespread service and staffing issues. Since 2015, the Class I railroads cut 45,000 jobs, or 29% of their workforce, and moved to a service model called Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR). The adoption of PSR led to systemic service challenges for rail customers — including small businesses, farmers, and energy companies — and deteriorating working conditions for the nation’s 115,000 freight rail workers.
In short, the freight rail industry is in a state of crisis because the railroads have prioritized short-term profits ahead of the long-term stability and prosperity of our freight rail system. In turn, poor rail service became one of the biggest bottlenecks in the U.S. supply chain.
Since joining the STB in 2020, Member Primus has been a leader in ensuring that the STB takes all necessary steps to address the numerous challenges in our freight rail system. Further, Mr. Primus understands the need to exercise the STB’s oversight authority to improve service for rail customers, grow the freight rail workforce, and bring long-term stability to the freight rail system.
TTD is proud to endorse Mr. Primus and I urge you to support his re-nomination to the Surface Transportation Board.