Senate Panel Wants Action on Rail Rate Fee Disputes

May 06, 2015 11:43AM
(BNA) – If confirmed, Surface Transportation Board member nominee Daniel Elliott faces pressure to make shipping rate fees more competitive and to more quickly resolve rate fee disputes.
During a hearing today by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Elliott addressed lawmakers’ concerns that the process of settling rate disputes between railroads and shippers was too lengthy and expensive.
The STB has commissioned an internal study to determine faster ways to bring rate dispute cases to the board and has “committed every human resource of the board to looking at how those cases can be processed more rapidly, he said.
Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and ranking member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) have introduced a bill (S. 808) that would overhaul the STB and, among other things, give the board more power to preempt rate fee issues and expedite the process for resolving a rate dispute.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) also raised the issue of discrepancies between rate fees for shippers using different rail routes.
“The rate difference doesn’t make sense to me,” Manchin said. “I would think that a rail mile is a mile.”
He said the price differences put shippers in some states at a disadvantage and made it harder for them to compete in the global market. Ellliott said an examination of issues affecting competition is on STB’s agenda this year.
Elliott is nominated to be reappointed as a member of the STB. The president’s nomination to reappoint Mario Cordero to the Federal Maritime Commission was also considered at the Senate hearing.
Thune said he expected that Elliott and Cordero will be confirmed by the committee.