Surface Transportation Board Chairman Dan Elliot said this week the regulator would act soon on a compromise to balance pricing concerns of shippers and the need for railroads to stay profitable so they can invest in their networks.
Elliot declined to say when the STB would take action, telling Dow Jones that “soon” could be anytime between two weeks and four months.
The STB has been receiving testimony from shippers, especially those reliant on a single carrier, and railroads since 2011.
The STB, which has refrained from making decisions on several recent shipper complaints, likely will outline ways a compromise between shippers and railroads can be struck. Most recently, the board last year deferred consideration of the National Industrial Transportation League’s request for tougher switching rules because the issue is part of a broader set of rail competition rules the STB already is considering.
Elliot’s comments at the North American Rail Shippers Association’s annual meeting on Thursday came after 36 shipper groups urged Congress to adopt Senate language in the surface transportation bill that would tweak the STB. In a letter, shipper groups, including the NITL and the American Public Power Association, asked Congress to require the board to heighten transparency and increase the damage shippers can be awarded.
The shippers also want Congress to force the STB to produce a study on the implementation of the revenue adequacy rate constraint, a key driver of how pricing is regulated. Shippers complain the major railroads fail to report “adequate revenue” under the constraint despite reporting robust profits, while railroads contend much of the profit is invested back into their networks.
The shipper groups also want the STB to provide quarterly reports on pending proceedings, because the board “is making little progress on a number of important regulator policy proceedings it has initiated over the last few years,” the letter said.
Congress also should consider whether the STB, which has a $30 million revenue and 150-person staff, needs more people to handle its large workload, the shippers groups wrote.
Contact Mark Szakonyi at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @szakonyi_joc.