Rail Fuel Surcharge Challenge Moves to Hearing

Rail Fuel Surcharge Challenge Moves to Hearing

A long-running legal challenge to freight rail fuel surcharges by the largest U.S. railroads moves to a court hearing that could decide whether the case becomes a broad antitrust class action by rail shippers.

The case is slated for a two-day hearing Oct. 6 and 7 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, after which the judge would be expected to decide in coming weeks whether to grant class certification.

By The Numbers: U.S. Diesel Prices.

The challenge began years ago in separate cases around the country against the way the largest Class I railroads developed and levied charges for fuel use. Shippers alleged the railroads coordinated their fees and violated antitrust law in the process, while the railroads denied the charges and insisted they set their fuel fees in accordance with the law.

In 2007, 18 cases were combined into a single one, to be handled by the D.C. District Court. The defendants were BNSF Railway, Union Pacific Railroad, Norfolk Southern Railway, CSX Transportation, Kansas City Southern Railway and the Association of American Railroads. The complaint targeted surcharges applied from July 1, 2003, through Dec. 31, 2008. Since then, Kansas City Southern Railway and the Association of American Railroads have been dropped from the case.

It has since gone through numerous court motions and a long discovery process to get to this latest point.

-- Contact John D. Boyd at jboyd@joc.com.