Sen. Franken Backs Railway Reform Proposal To Help Minnesota Farmers, Businesses Move Goods

May 11, 2015, Senator Al Franken Press Release


Today, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) threw his support behind new legislation to address challenges faced by Minnesota industries that rely on railways to ship their goods.

The Rail Shipper Fairness Act, originally sponsored by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), aims to reduce costs and improve service problems faced by many of Minnesota’s rail shippers-including farmers, businesses, and manufacturers from all across the state. The bill would improve rail service and competition, while at the same time making it easier for shippers to challenge unfair rate practices. It would also make structural reforms to the Surface Transportation Board (STB), which has jurisdiction over railways.

“I’ve frequently heard from Minnesota shippers who have faced poor rail service and haven’t been able to get their goods moved in a timely manner,” said Sen. Franken. “This is unacceptable. Allowing goods from Minnesota farmers and businesses to sit on the sidelines is bad for the economy and bad for our communities. This new bill will inject some much-needed reforms into how the railways operate, boosting competition and improving rail service.”

The Rail Shipper Fairness Act improves rail service, increases rail shipping competition, reforms rate case regulations and restructures the STB. The legislation will require railroads to be more responsive to their customers by honoring their contractual obligations. The bill includes provisions to implement competitive switching, and additionally, the bill requires the STB membership to increase from three to five members, two of whom must have experience as a consumer or rail shipper advocate.