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STB announces extension of Class I railroad carriers temporary period

Late last week, the Surface Transportation Board (STB), an independent adjudicatory and economic-regulatory agency charged by Congress with resolving railroad rate and service disputes and reviewing proposed railroad mergers, announced it has issued an order to extend the temporary reporting period for all four United States-based Class I railroad carriers for six months.

STB said that this order requires “certain updated information” from BNSF Railway Company, CSX Transportation Inc., Norfolk Southern Railway Company, and Union Pacific. And it added that it has directed the carriers to submit biweekly service reports for the next six months, through May 5, 2023.

The impetus for this extension stems from hearings the STB held in April, regarding rail service problems and recovery efforts relating to various Class I railroad carriers.  

In the months leading up to the April hearing, STB Chairman Martin Oberman said that Class I railroad service had been deteriorating for substantial periods of time, calling it significant.

He said that shippers view service as more unreliable and for some shippers that have had long-term service patterns, they have seen abrupt changes, like being informed on short notice they are being reduced from five days to three or being shifted from a weekend to a week day or vice versa.

What’s more, he said, switches are being missed and it is affecting shippers’ operations and manufacturing processes, and for some shippers who relied for years on unit train service and invested in their own infrastructure at the encouragement of railroads to obtain unit train service have had unit train service cut off. In some cases, he said railroad workers are being required to work with limited days off of overtime, observing that there can be no question that too few workers means there is less ability to provide shippers with reliable service to customers.

Following the April hearings, the STB issued an order that required the four U.S.-based Class I railroad carriers to file service recovery plans to “specifically describe their key remedial initiatives and promote a clearer vantage point into operating conditions on the rail network.”

Based on the most recent data, STB explained that the four U.S. Class I railroad carriers are meeting some of the targets for service improvements, with various key performance indicators heading in a positive direction. But is also noted that the data is still pointing to anecdotal evidence being reported to the STB about various “significant service issues,” including: velocity, terminal dwell, first-mile/last-mile service, operating inventory, and trip plan compliance.

STB said that data for these metrics continues to indicate that “railroad operations remain challenged generally and particularly when compared to pre-pandemic 2019 levels…continued monitoring is needed.” And it also said that having the four Class I U.S. rail carriers to report service requirements allows the STB to “assess the current service issues across the entire rail network.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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