Surface Transportation Board
The three-member Surface Transportation Board (STB) was established by the ICC Termination Act of 1995 as a quasi-judicial agency of the United States Department of Transportation. The Board has exclusive jurisdiction to implement the federal laws regarding the relationship of the railroads with their customers and with each other.
- The reasonableness of rates charged to captive rail customers;
- Issues regarding switching facilities and terminal area access;
- Railroad mergers and acquisitions, including the sale of track to short line railroads from major railroads;
- Competition issues, including the bottleneck issue and “paper barriers”; and,
- Emergency service orders.
Most activities of the railroad industry, including mergers and acquisitions, are exempt from the antitrust laws of the nation. Issues within the jurisdiction of the Board may not be litigated in the federal or state courts.
The decisions and policies of the STB establish the guidelines and parameters for railroad actions that are acceptable under the law. Every day, individual captive rail customers and their railroad carriers “negotiate” the rates and terms of movements guided by the decisions of the Board.
Board members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, each with a five-year term of office and a one-year holdover period. Although there are five seats on the Board, only three seats currently are filled: Chairman Ann D. Begeman (R), Vice Chairman Patrick Fuchs (R) and Member Martin Oberman (D). Fuchs was sworn-in on January 17 and Oberman on January 29 following confirmation by the U.S. Senate on January 2. The White House re-nominated Michelle Schultz (R) to serve as a Member on January 16. Schultz was nominated last year and was approved by the Senate Committee on April 26, 2018. However she along with numerous other nominees were not confirmed in the last hours of the 115th Congress. At the current time, it is not known when Senate consideration will begin on Schultz or when the White House will nominate a Democrat individual to the Board.
STB’s Public Assistance and Other Resources
The Board offers various services to freight rail shippers thru its Rail Customer and Public Assistance Program. If your entity has questions that need to be answered by the STB, has a service or rate concern, or is in need of other regulatory assistance, start by contacting this division.
In addition, the STB thru its Office of Environmental Analysis has produced and made available a Railroad Map Depot. This site serves as STB’s clearinghouse for maps of past and ongoing cases before the Board. Information contained on this site is based on publicly available maps and data produced by railroads, government agencies, and other stakeholders. It can be accessed here.
Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015 and Implementation
The Surface Transportation Board (STB) Reauthorization Act of 2015, S. 808 (S. Rpt. 114-52), was signed into law (P.L. 114-110) on December 11, 2015. It provides the first authorization for the STB since 1998 and establishes basic reforms and process enhancements for the Board. For more information, click here.
Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on procedures that could comprise a new rate reasonableness methodology for small disputes that would be more affordable and accessible to shippers of all commodities.
STB Hearings and/or Proceedings Impacting FRCA and Freight Rail-Dependent Shippers
- Docket No. FD 36004, Canadian Pacific Railway Limited – Petition for Expedited Declaratory Order (FRCA Submitted Comments March 23, 2016)
- Docket No. 35506, “Impact of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.’s acquisition of BNSF on certain costing determinations” (March 22, 2012)
- Docket No. EP 740, “WCTL Petition to Lift Regulatory Freeze in Four Pending Proceedings” (On May 15, 2018 the STB denied the WCTL’s request to remove the “regulatory freeze” concerning four specific dockets: Rail Fuel Surcharges (Safe Harbor), Docket No. EP 661 (Sub-No. 2); Railroad Revenue Adequacy, Docket No. EP 722; InterVISTAS Study, Docket No. EP 736; and Reciprocal Switching, Docket No. EP 711 (Sub-No. 1) The WCTL’s Petition was filed on August 11, 2017.)
- Docket No. EP 736, “STB-Commissioned InterVISTAS Report” (On February 28, 2018 STB denied in part the Western Coal Traffic League’s renewed request for workpapers for the Study because they contained some confidential information from rate cases.)
- Docket No. EP, 739, “Ex Parte Communications in Informal Rulemaking Proceedings” (November 16, 2017)
- Docket No. EP 738, Regulatory Reform Task Force (FRCA Meeting June 18, 2018; FRCA Submitted Comments July 21, 2017)
- Docket No. EP 733, Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Expediting Rate Cases (FRCA Signed-on to Submitted WCTL Group Comments August 1, 2016, Reply Comments August 29, 2016, final Reply Comments on June 14, 2017. STB Final Rule on November 20, 2017.) In May 2018 the STB began exploring ways to streamline its stand-alone cost (SAC) rate review methodology via meetings with stakeholders, practitioners, and consultants with the STB Rate Reform Task Force. The Task Force was established in January 2018.) https://www.stb.gov/__85256593004F576F.nsf/0/EFEEE3B0A71EC4A98525827800541CF1?OpenDocument
- Docket No. EP 731, Final Rule, Rules Relating to Board-Initiated Investigations (December 13, 2016)
- Docket No. EP 731, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Rules Relating to Board-Initiated Investigations (July 15, 2016)
- Docket No. EP 730, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Revisions to Arbitration Procedures (July 1, 2016)
- Docket No. EP 724 (Sub-No. 4), Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Rail Service Issues–Performance Data Reporting (FRCA Signed-on to Western Coal Traffic League Group Comments May 31, 2016)
- Docket No. EP 724 (Sub-No. 4), Rail Service Issues–Performance Data Reporting , Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (April 29, 2015)
- Docket No. EP 724 (Sub-No. 4), Rail Service Issues–Performance Data Reporting, Ex-Parte Communications (FRCA Submitted Communications December 23, 2015 and December 3, 2015)
- Docket No. EP 724, “United States Rail Service Issues”, Public Field Hearing in Fargo, ND (September 4, 2014)
- Docket No. EP 724, “United States Rail Service Issues”, Public Hearing (April 10, 2014)
- Docket No. EP 722, “Railroad Revenue Adequacy”, Public Hearing (FRCA Submitted Written Comments July 23-24, 2015)
- Docket No. EP-712, “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review”, Final Rule (February 18, 2016)
- Docket No. EP 712, “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review”, Submitted CURE/FRCA Comments (January 10, 2012)
- Docket No. EP 711 (Sub No. 1), Reciprocal Switching Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FRCA Submitted Comments October 26, 2016
- Docket No. EP 711, “Petition for Rulemaking to Adopt Revised Competitive Switching Rules”, Public Hearing (March 26, 2014)
- Docket No. EP 711, “Petition for Rulemaking to Adopt Revised Competitive Switching Rules”, Public Hearing (March 25, 2014)
- Ex Parte No. 705, “Competition in the Freight Rail Industry” (June 22-23, 2011)
- Docket No. EP 704 (Sub-No. 1), Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Review of Commodity, Boxcar, and TOFC/COFC Exemptions (FRCA Submitted Comments July 25, 2016)
- Ex Parte No. 704, “Revisiting Commodity, Boxcar and Intermodal Regulatory Exemptions” (FRCA Submitted Comments July 25, 2016)
- Docket No. EP 665 (Sub-No. 2), “Expanding Access to Rate Relief” (In May 2018, to complement the comments that were received during the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking stage, the Rate Reform Task Force began meeting with stakeholders, practitioners, and consultants to further develop recommendations to reform and streamline the Board’s rate methodology for large cases, and to determine how to best provide a rate review process for smaller rate cases. The Task Force was established in January 2018.)