Annual Review & Outlook 2013: Surface Transportation Board

Annual Review & Outlook 2013: Surface Transportation Board

Daniel R. Elliott IIIPerhaps the most pressing issue facing the Surface Transportation Board this year is how to provide more meaningful access to rail shippers who challenge rail rates, particularly when the shippers have limited transportation options. The STB will continue its review of rail rate challenge procedures and standards, as well as other regulatory avenues, such as reciprocal switching, that might increase competition in the rail industry. We’ve also proposed a number of changes to how we analyze rail market dominance, and increased disclosure on so-called paper barriers. We examine these issues with an eye toward permitting the railroads to earn adequate revenues to provide an efficient, safe and sound railroad system.

We also are working to ensure that the quality of service shippers receive from rail carriers and that the practices railroads implement are reasonable. We continue to search for ways to resolve service-related disputes rapidly, and to foster clear communication of standards expected of railroads and responsibilities of shippers. We’ve proposed an overhaul to our Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms to increase their use.

Finally, we will play an increasingly active role in enhancing performance of existing passenger rail systems, and enabling establishment of new passenger rail services. The burgeoning high-speed rail industry and passenger rail growth in the U.S. bring competing demands for capacity from the nation’s predominantly freight rail network. How to optimize the use of scarce, privately held resources poses challenges, but challenges we are dedicated to meeting.

Our job this year isn’t to champion shippers or railroads at the expense of their business partners. Our job is to provide a balanced regulatory framework for all of our stakeholders to keep freight moving on the rails as efficiently as possible.

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