Rail Customer Coalition Gets Push Back

SEPTEMBER 12, 2017

A group of conservative think tanks, led by the Conservative Enterprise Institute (CEI), recently wrote to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Ranking Member Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), urging lawmakers to approve nominees to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) who would reverse proposed regulations on “reciprocal switching” of railroads.

Reciprocal or competitive switching occurs when a railcar from one railroad is interchanged on the tracks of another railroad to arrive at a customer’s siding for loading or unloading freight.

The STB, an independent, bipartisan adjudicatory board that provides oversight to many common carriers, including the railroad industry, issued proposed reciprocal switching regulations last July. The proposed rules received overwhelming support from shipper and rail customer groups, and strong opposition from the largest railroads and the Association of American Railroads.

In their Senate letter, CEI and the allied groups advocated that the Senate panel “vet nominees to ensure they have a sound understanding of the economic principles surrounding the freight railroad sectors and who will reject misguided efforts to re-regulate our nation’s fright rail industry.”

The groups go on criticize the Rail Customer Coalition (RCC), which ILMA recently joined, stating, “Unfortunately, some powerful industrial shipping interests have succeeded in opening a proceeding before the STB framed in the language of promoting competition.”

The RCC is a group of nearly 50 trade associations that addresses issues with the freight rail industry, including decreased competition, rates and fees, outdated rail transportation policies, and service issues such as the recent, documented problems with CSX.

ILMA joined the RCC to help address members’ ongoing issues with operational changes with CSX and resulting delays in rail shipments.

CSX, since March, has been implementing a plan, called “precision railroading,” that has been put in place by two of Canada’s largest railways. The plan includes more precise schedules, shutting down rail yards that sort long trains, and idling locomotives and freight cars.

These changes by CSX have snarled freight shipments, including for ILMA members. Some companies have used more expensive trucking as an alternative, while other members have slowed production. CSX’s service issues have been a costly problem according to the affected ILMA members.

The RCC is advocating that President Trump nominate reasonable and fair individuals to serve on the STB, as well as ensuring that CSX restore reliable, cost-effective service.