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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.

STB’s Jurisdiction

  • 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.

STB Members
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.

FRCA publicly endorsed Oberman and Fuchs

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