FRCA Testifies Before U.S. Congressional Hearing on Implementation of Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015

For Immediate Release
Thursday, August 11, 2016
Contact:  Ann Warner
Sioux Falls, SD    – A new Federal law is helping to improve government oversight of the nation’s growing reliance on freight railroads, a leader of the Freight Rail Customers Alliance (FRCA) said today at a field hearing of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
The Surface Transportation Board (STB) Reauthorization Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-110) is helping our entire nation better meet today’s freight rail shipping demands and expectations,” Thomas J. Heller, member of FRCA’s board of directors and chief executive officer of Missouri River Energy Services, told committee members at the hearing.
The legislation, signed by President Obama in December, was sponsored by Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL).
The STB is an independent adjudicatory and economic-regulatory agency charged by Congress to resolve railroad rate and service disputes, and to review proposed railroad mergers.   It also has authority to investigate rail service matters of regional and national significance.
In his testimony, Heller described how the STB Reauthorization Act of 2015 may assist shippers in expediting rate cases.  According to Heller, the STB has been working on streamlining rail rate cases, issuing quarterly reports on unfinished regulatory proceedings, developing rules regarding its authority to investigate rates and practices without a complaint being filed, and the development of revised arbitration procedures.  All of these efforts may allow for some rate cases to be further expedited.
This new law directs the STB to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of large rate case methodologies and potential, economically sound additional and alternative approaches to expedite particularly large rate cases.  “The length and cost of the current approach has proven to be an impediment to many rail customers obtaining rate protection under the STB rules,” Heller said.
Heller praised the needed increased authorized funding for the STB in the new law.  He expressed hope that Congress will appropriate the necessary resources for the STB to implement the law’s new requirements while meeting existing responsibilities.   
The new law also included provisions establishing new requirements or encouraging the completion of longstanding pending procedures before the STB.  “This is notability recognized in the STB Reauthorization Act of 2015 commitment to update and enhance STB’s information technology and data needs to help ensure transparency, consistency, timeliness, and ease of access,” Heller said.
Freight rail shippers heavily rely on industry data provided through the STB to help:  1) make vital daily and longer term operational decisions; 2) forecast industry emerging trends; and, 3) monitor a railroad’s level of service and performance.
About FRCA
The Freight Rail Customers Alliance is an organization of freight rail shippers impacted by continued unrestrained freight rail market dominance over rail-dependent shippers.  Its mission is to seek changes in Federal law and policy that will provide all freight rail shippers with reliable freight rail service at competitive prices.
FRCA members include large trade associations representing more than 3,500 manufacturing, agriculture and alternative fuels companies, electric utilities, and their customers. Its membership base is expanding to include other industries and commodities.