GRAIN SHIPPER ASKS BOARD TO RECONSIDER RULING ON UP'S GUARANTEED FREIGHT POOL

GRAIN SHIPPER ASKS BOARD TO RECONSIDER RULING ON UP'S GUARANTEED FREIGHT POOL

A Missouri grain company asked the Surface Transportation Board to reconsider its decision that rejected the shipper's plea for an emergency order that would have required Union Pacific Railroad to supply freight cars.

DeBruce Grain Co. of North Kansas City tried to convince the board late last year that UP was discriminating against the shipper in failing to supply grain cars to move corn from three Nebraska elevators.The case revolves around the extent of UP's obligations to supply grain cars under a program called ''guaranteed freight pool.'' DeBruce and other shippers contributed their own freight cars to that program with the understanding that a specified number of cars would be placed for shipment each month at their facilities.

However, a car shortage developed. The bumper harvest in Nebraska and other states was ready for shipment just as UP was struggling to unravel its systemwide congestion.

Although UP acknowledged it could not place the cars supplied under the program, it contended that its obligation ended with payment of a $250 per-car fee for each incident.

Siding with the carrier, STB said it was not willing to impose the emergency order DeBruce requested because to do so would disrupt UP's service-recovery effort by forcing the railroad to give priority to other shippers.

The STB also said such a ruling would have opened the door for similar suits from other customers.

In its petition to reopen, DeBruce insisted that ''UP is punishing those shippers who had the foresight and were willing to assume the obligations necessary to obtain what they were assured was the most reliable source of grain cars.''

DeBruce maintained that UP should have stopped a car ''futures'' program that continued throughout 1997 because the carrier knew before the harvest that it would not have sufficient cars to meet demand.