ICC PROPOSES END TO REQUIREMENT THAT RAILS FILE TRANSPORT CONTRACTS

ICC PROPOSES END TO REQUIREMENT THAT RAILS FILE TRANSPORT CONTRACTS

The Interstate Commerce Commission proposed ending the requirement that railroads file their transportation contracts with the agency, a move strongly supported by the industry.

The commission's proposal, published in Monday's Federal Register, is the first of many promised actions to cut the regulatory burden on transportation companies.During a White House press conference last week, the ICC unveiled plans to amend or repeal 11 regulations affecting the railroad and trucking industries. The proposals reflect President Bush's election-year campaign promise to crack down on government regulation of business.

"We wholeheartedly support the commission's proposal," said Carol Perkins, a spokeswoman for the Association of American Railroads.

She said the rail association is unaware of any contract that has been disapproved by the commission on substantive grounds.

In its proposal, the commission said such filings "have become routine and there is virtually no substantive controversy with respect to them."

Democrat commission members J.J. Simmons and Gail C. McDonald oppose the

commission's proposal.

"This is an integral part of the carefully crafted contract provisions of the Staggers Act, which were adopted only 12 years ago," Mr. Simmons said. Passed in 1980, the Staggers Act substantially deregulated the railroads and allowed carriers and shippers to enter into contracts.

"The end of contract filing will deprive the commission of a critical source of information regarding trends and conditions in the rail industry," Mr. Simmons added.

Under the commission's proposal, railroads would continue to be required to file summaries of their contracts with the ICC, said James Greene, assistant to the director in the ICC's bureau of traffic. The ICC currently receives in excess of 70,000 contracts and summaries a year.

Mr. Greene said that in reviewing the contracts and summaries, the ICC typically finds several thousand largely technical discrepancies between the contracts and their corresponding summaries.

James Bartley, president of the National Industrial Transportation League, supported the commission's proposal, but said some grain contracts might still need to be filed with the ICC.

Additionally, he said getting rid of the contract filing requirement would eliminate possible future rate disputes between shippers and carriers in cases where contracts were not properly filed.

Comments on the proposal are due May 7.