Rail Shippers Welcome Surface Transportation Board Hearing On Rail Competition

WASHINGTON – Consumers United for Rail Equity (CURE) today welcomed the news that the Surface Transportation Board (STB) has decided to “explore the current state of competition in the railroad industry and possible policy initiatives to promote more rail-to-rail competition.” The STB issued a call for comments on these issues and announced it would hold a hearing on May 3rd.

“This is a very positive development for rail customers. We are pleased to see the Board being pro-active on the level of competition and other issues concerning the national freight rail system. We will participate fully and are encouraging all rail customers to engage in this opportunity to educate the Board regarding the problems being confronted by rail customers around the nation,” said Glenn English, Chairman of Consumers United for Rail Equity (CURE), a coalition of freight rail customers seeking changes in federal law to allow for more competitive railroad pricing and reliable service.

The development is the latest in a recent string of actions at the federal level and in response to growing calls for relief from rail customers, state agriculture commissioners and state attorneys general:

  • In the 110th Congress, both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees passed legislation which would end the special exemptions from antitrust law that the freight railroads enjoy today.
  • A joint USDA-DOT report issued last April found there is "considerable evidence" that freight rail companies collected excessive fuel surcharges from rail customers to artificially boost profits, and reported the costs to US farmers and consumers from the lack of competition in the freight rail industry.
  • In September, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture called on Congress and President Obama to enact bipartisan freight rail reform legislation.
  • On September 15th, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Rockefeller issued a stinging staff report (found here) that accused the railroads of downplaying their financial success to the federal government in order to preserve their monopoly and antitrust exemptions. The Commerce Committee also held an oversight hearing on freight rail policy being developed in the Executive Branch of the federal government.
  • Finally, on December 21st, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee filed with the full Senate, S.2889, the STB Reauthorization Act of 2009, and a report on the legislation, which was adopted by the committee the prior December by voice vote. The bipartisan legislation provides for a more pro-competitive implementation of the current law governing the relationship between the railroads and their customers.

For more information about CURE, please visit www.railcure.org.

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