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STB Chairman Oberman Addresses Current Rail Issues at NGFA Annual Meeting


He said that one issue “near and dear to me is 711.” Ex Parte 711 is a proceeding on reciprocal switching as a means to increase competition and address rate and service issues. Oberman said that he is very hopeful that the STB will be doing “some action” in the area covered by 711 and he couldn’t say what, except that it is “not dead and is very much alive” on his agenda.

Just to give a little more background on this, 711 has been brewing since 2011 and is perhaps the most contentious item among the industry. Reciprocal switching refers to situations in which a Class I railroad that has physical access to a specific shipper’s facility that switches traffic from the facility to another railroad and does not have physical access, in exchange for compensation in the form of an access fee/switch charge.

“One other area that we had a request last fall for was some way to measure first mile/last mile performance. It turns out how to measure first mile/last mile performance is fairly complicated because there are many different ways to look at it,” said Oberman. “But this is something of high interest to me and the rest of the Board and I am hopeful we will some activity by the Board in the very near future.”

Oberman also mentioned that at the end of May, the STB sent letters to all Class I railroads requesting that they continue to provide quarterly information about their revenues from demurrage and accessorial charges. This information was first requested in 2018 and has allowed the STB to closely monitor trends in revenues from demurrage and accessorial charges, which remain important as shippers add volume back to the freight rail network with the rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, at the end of May, Oberman sent letters to all Class I railroads requesting that they provide an update on their preparedness to meet the demand for rail service as the nation continues its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here is a link to the press release containing that letter: https://prod.stb.gov/…

Oberman said that the thing that has most impressed him about the rail industry since he joined the STB is that “we are dealing with, in most parts of the country, a monopolistic, and in some cases, a duopolistic industry. For that reason, I think it has been essential for the Board to focus on using every possible means to enhance and ensure competitive landscape. To me, it’s crucial if you are going to have a healthy freight industry for us to, where possible, ensure that competition exists.”

Here is a link to Docket Actions of EP 711 RECIPROCAL SWITCHING: https://prod.stb.gov/…

Here is a link to Docket Actions of EP 755 FINAL OFFER RATE REVIEW: https://prod.stb.gov/…

Here is a link to Docket Actions of EP 765 JOINT PETITION FOR RULEMAKING TO ESTABLISH A VOLUNTARY ARBITRATION PROGRAM FOR SMALL RATE DISPUTES: https://prod.stb.gov/…

Mary Kennedy can be reached at mary.kennedy@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @MaryCKenn



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