WASHINGTON – National trade associations today praised the introduction of legislation in the U.S. Senate that would make the railroad industry more competitive and ensure rail shippers are treated fairly.  The bipartisan legislation, the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2011, S. 158, was introduced by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Ranking Member Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX). “This bill is a strong step forward in ensuring that American rail shippers receive fair and equitable treatment at the hands of our nation’s freight railroad monopoly,” said Glenn English, Chairman of Consumers United for Rail Equity, a coalition of freight rail customers.  “This is a common sense, compromise bill that rail customers and the freight rail industry helped to negotiate in good faith.  Rail customers stand behind it, and so should the freight railroads.” The legislation introduced in the Senate this week is a compromise bill that was developed in consultation with rail customers and the freight rail industry.  It was first introduced in December 2009 and was adopted that month by the Senate Commerce Committee by voice vote.  The bill would reauthorize the Surface Transportation Board, increase competition in the railroad industry and improve access to the STB for rail-dependent shippers who are being treated unfairly by the railroads. “Senators Rockefeller and Hutchison are to be commended for the leadership they have shown on this important issue that impacts small businesses, farmers and consumers around this country,” said English. The freight railroad industry in the United States currently consists of just four major rail companies who have divided the country into service areas.  Competition in the freight railroad industry is almost non-existent.  As a result, many rail customers only have access to a single railroad.  These “captive shippers” frequently endure excessive rates and poor service.  Last year, a joint USDA-DOT report issued found there is “considerable evidence” that freight rail companies collected excessive fuel surcharges from rail customers to artificially boost profits. Under the current rail system, many American shippers are forced to pay excessive rates due to their captive status, while foreign imports that are shipped along busy rail corridors are subject to lower rates.  As a result, the existing rail system is giving a boost to foreign companies even as it protects the railroads from greater competition. For more information about CURE, please visit www.railcure.org.