The head of Norfolk Southern Railway said he is finding nothing to like in the rail competition legislation pending in the Senate, after passage months ago by the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
Charles W. Moorman, NS chairman, president and CEO, told The Journal of Commerce, “This is a bill which doesn’t have anything very good for the industry in it. It’s just that easy.”
He made the comments following a speech Thursday in Washington to the annual meeting of the National Association of Rail Shippers, a group dominated by industrial carload customers but including intermodal shippers.
The bill is a top priority of Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who has vowed to get it enacted into law this year but warned that railroads are pushing back hard.
The legislation would expand the Surface Transportation Board and its staff, empower the agency to launch investigations into rail practices, and put in place a number of new rules to force railroads to compete more on rates and service by requiring alternative carrier access to shippers who now are captive to a single railroad.
Moorman did not detail his objections to the bill, but referred to past industry position statements. “There are a number of issues,” he told the JOC. “A lot of it is around the access issue, obviously, but then there are a number of other issues as well.”
Asked if there is anything in the proposed law he specifically likes, Moorman said, “No, not that I’m aware of.”
He told NARS, “The bill that is out there right now . . . is not acceptable. We think it would be extremely detrimental to the industry, but we are going to keep the dialogue open,” with the Commerce panel to alter the language before it proceeds.
The NS chief earlier this month complained that the drive to alter rail regulations was powered by a “small but well-funded group of shippers” and supported by “relatively few” lawmakers in Congress.
He told NARS he would not repeat his earlier “harsh language” on that subject. However, he said if the legislation moves forward as is, the choice for railroads is “we fight it. We go around to everyone we know and say this is terrible.”
Still, he said, “I don’t think, at the end of the day, the Congress will pass legislation that seriously damages railroads. And if we believe it seriously damages the industry we’re going to tell them. But it’s a long way from here to there; we’re still talking with the Commerce Committee.”
He assured the shippers, “if we could find an acceptable bill, we’re like everyone else -- we’d love to put it behind us. And that’s one of the big reasons we engaged in this dialogue. But we are not there yet.”