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STB Announces Freight Transportation Policy Changes

Changes will make it easier for freight rail customers to seek emergency relief for service failures.

January 26, 2024

2 Min Read
New policy changes for freight rail customers
Policy changes include access to other rail service options to promote greater competition within the rail industry.Image courtesy of Smederevac / iStock via Getty Images

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) has announced important changes that will help make it easier for freight rail customers to seek emergency relief for service failures.

 

The new rules on Expedited Relief for Service Emergencies (STB Docket EP 762) streamline the process for the STB to direct a railroad to address a service failure or to provide a rail customer access to an alternative railroad. The Board has established a separate, accelerated process to address situations when rail service failures threaten public health and safety, or would force a business closure or plant shutdown.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) strongly supports these reforms to enhance the utility of the Board’s emergency service orders.

 

“Rail service failures have become all too common over the past decade and these reforms will provide a much-needed solution for addressing rail problems before they cause major disruptions to the nation’s supply chain,” said Jeff Sloan, ACC senior director for Regulatory and Scientific Affairs. “The Board’s current process for tackling rail service problems is too lengthy and burdensome to effectively address emergency situations.”

 

“The new rules are not a solution for all, or even most, service problems, which is why we want to make it clear that the Board must take additional action to address long-standing and ongoing freight rail problems,” he added. “Specifically, the STB must finalize its long-overdue reforms to its reciprocal switching rules, which can provide access to additional remedies to poor rail service.”

 

Reciprocal switching allows certain rail customers to request that their freight be moved to another major railroad when another rail line is reasonably accessible. A request can only be made in situations where switching is both feasible and needed for competition.

This approach can help provide greater access to other rail service options and promote greater competition within the rail industry, which would encourage railroads to be more customer-focused and help prevent future service disruptions.

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