The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s “Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation” released its final report on the current state of freight transportation in the U.S. and its recommendations for improvements to strengthen the U.S. economy. Earlier this month, Eddie Johnston, transportation policy leader at DuPont, testified before the panel on behalf of ACC and told members that increasing freight rail competition is a critical transportation issue for the U.S. economy. ACC issued the following statement in response to the report:
“ACC commends the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure for allowing shippers to offer their perspectives on important freight transportation issues during the special panel. The chemical industry is a major user of our nation’s freight system and is one of the largest customers for many modes of transportation, including rail, truck, and barge.
“As an important transportation stakeholder along with other shippers, we have serious concerns about the lack of rail competition and its impact on U.S. manufacturers. As the members of the Committee review the recommendations of the report, we urge them not to overlook the issue of rail competition as they examine an array of freight rail policies.
“Following significant railroad consolidation, freight rail rates have soared more than 76 percent — nearly three times the rate of inflation — since 2001. Today’s freight rail policies are more than 30 years old and have not kept pace with the massive consolidation in the freight rail industry. We believe it is now time for policymakers to pursue reforms at the Surface Transportation Board (STB) that would decrease the need for regulation by increasing market-based competition.
“Adopting modest reforms like competitive switching, which is currently being considered by the STB, would be a step in the right direction. Competitive switching means that a rail customer that is served by a single major railroad may have its traffic switched to a different carrier at a nearby interchange, allowing the shipper to seek competing bids for rail service. Furthermore, Congress should consider reasonable reforms that will make the STB function more effectively and efficiently. These commonsense solutions would help make U.S. manufacturers more competitive against overseas competition and would also make rail transportation a viable option for more American industries that need to transport their products.
“Freight rail reform is long overdue for fulfilling the direction Congress set in motion almost four decades ago through the Staggers Rail Act. We are committed to working with this Committee, other policymakers and rail stakeholders to ensure that the American economy can thrive in a fiercely competitive global marketplace.”
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