FRCA Participation in STB Proceedings

The Freight Rail Customer Alliance (FRCA) continues to advocate on behalf of its members, and particularly freight-rail dependent shippers, before the Surface Transportation Board (STB or Board).

The STB is moving forward on numerous proceedings, due in large part to the implementation of the STB Reauthorization Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-110). The proceedings are providing the framework for the STB to work more effectively on rulemakings required in this new law while moving forward on various dockets that have been pending before the Boar for years.

The following identifies some of the STB proceedings FRCA is participating in:

  • Docket No. EP 724 (Sub-No. 4), Rail Service Issues–Performance Data Reporting, Ex-Parte Communications. FRCA submitted written Comments on December 23, 2015 and met with the STB on December 3, 2015.

    In this docket, FRCA members engaged in ex-parte communication with STB staff and submitted follow-on written comments emphasizing that the performance reporting measurements should be made permanent.  Mandatory reporting to a government agency carries an assurance of accuracy and urgency that is not achieved with reporting that is voluntary and, thus, discretionary.  Rail-dependent shippers depend on this data to identify trends, including potential service problems that could be better mitigated if alerted to ahead of time which can only be recognized via accurate, timely, transparent railroad data reporting.

    FRCA also encouraged the STB to impart transparency and uniformity when reporting and displaying data while providing a streamlined process for stakeholders when accessing data.
  • Docket No. EP 722, Railroad Revenue Adequacy. FRCA (via its predecessor organization) submitted written comments in response to a public hearing held by the STB on July 23-24, 2015.

    In this submittal, FRCA highlighted its longstanding concern that the STB’s annual determinations of “revenue adequacy” for Class I carriers does not reflect the true health of the industry and its members.  FRCA stated that that the carriers’ falsely perceived lack of adequate revenues has served to shield the railroads’ exercise of their monopoly pricing power from STB scrutiny and has prevented shippers from obtaining appropriate relief.  For that reason, FRCA continues to support elimination of the statutory requirement for the annual determination.

    FRCA stated that it strongly opposes railroad efforts to evaluate revenue adequacy on the basis of replacement costs.  The replacement cost issue has been examined repeatedly, including by the Railroad Accounting Principles Board, and the use of replacement cost methodologies has always soundly been rejected.  Given the financial strength of the railroads today, including publicly available information indicating that the railroad industry is revenue adequate, there is no plausible basis for the STB to adopt a replacement cost approach to evaluate revenue adequacy or limit the availability of rate relief.
  • Docket No. EP 704 (Sub-No.1), Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Review of Commodity, Boxcar, and TOFC/COFC Exemptions. FRCA submitted Comments on July 25th.

    In this filing, FRCA supports the STB’s proposal to revoke the existing class exemptions under for (1) crushed or broken stone or rip rap; (2) hydraulic cement; and (3) coke produced from coal, primary iron or steel products, and iron or steel scrap, wastes or tailings.

    FRCA further states in its filing that: 1) all freight rail shippers regardless of commodity, should be able to seek rate and/or service relief before the STB and 2) the STB should give meaningful consideration to reviewing, reducing, or eliminating most or all of its other existing commodity, boxcar, and TOFC/COFC exemptions.
  • Docket No. EP 711 (Sub No.-1), Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), Reciprocal Switching. STB is seeking comments in determining the pros and cons of requiring railroads to provide requested switching arrangements, and on its proposed changes to its current competitive switching rules and processes. [Hybrid need to make this a link to the attached.]

FRCA is planning on submitting written Comments by the October 26th deadline.

Please note: Reply Comments are due January 13, 2017.  Requests for Meetings with Board Members are due January 13, 2017.  Meetings with Board Members will occur between January 30 and February 17, 2017.

For additional information on several of these proceedings, refer to related story, Freight Rail Customer Alliance Responds to Association of American Railroads.

View other articles in the October 2016 Newsletter