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FMCSA Requests Public Comments on Broker Transparency Petitions

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) requested public comments on petitions for rulemaking backed by owner-operator/small-fleet groups to address the transparency of broker rates. The notice is in response to petitions filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (“OOIDA”) and the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (“SBTC,” and, together with OOIDA, the “Petitioners”). 

49 C.F.R. 371.3(a) requires brokers to maintain detailed records of their brokered transactions, including the amount of compensation received by the broker for the brokerage service performed and the name of the payer, and the amount of any freight charges collected by the broker and the date of payment to the carrier. 49 C.F.R. 371.3(c) gives each party to a brokered transaction the right to review the record of the transaction required to be kept. 

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The Board Seeks Public Comment on New Approach for Considering Class Exemption and Revocation Issues

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) requested public comments on petitions for rulemaking backed by owner-operator/small-fleet groups to address the transparency of broker rates. The notice is in response to petitions filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (“OOIDA”) and the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (“SBTC,” and, together with OOIDA, the “Petitioners”).   

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UP, NS & CN File Joint Petition for Rulemaking to Modernize Annual Revenue Adequacy Determinations

On September 1, 2020, Petitioners Union Pacific Railroad Company (UP), Norfolk Southern Railway Company (NS), and the U.S. rail operating affiliates of Canadian National Railway Company (collectively, CN) filed a joint petition urging the Surface Transportation Board (STB or Board) to initiate a rulemaking proceeding to adopt rules that would revise and modernize annual revenue adequacy determinations under 49 U.S.C. § 10704(a).  Joint Petition for Rulemaking to Modernize Annual Revenue Adequacy Determinations, Ex Parte 766 (filed Sept. 1, 2020).

Petitioners stated that Congress charged the Board with annually measuring the financial health of the rail industry and assisting each railroad in achieving revenue adequacy, and the Board has committed itself to “evidence-based decision-making,” using tools that were designed three decades ago.  Id., slip op. at 1.  According to Petitioners, the Board currently relies on accounting measures of return on investment (ROI), rather than the current economic value of those investment assets, then removes billions of dollars of accumulated deferred taxes from that investment base, which adds yet another distortion, and analyzes these findings without considering evidence about typical rates of return for the companies with which railroads compete for capital.  Id., slip op. at 1-2.

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Five Class I Railroads File Joint Petition for Rulemaking to Establish an Alternative Voluntary Arbitration Program for Small Rate Disputes

On July 31, 2020, five Class I railroads, Canadian National Railway Company (CN), CSX Transportation, Inc. (CSX), Norfolk Southern Corporation (NS), Union Pacific Railroad Company (UP), and the Kansas City Southern Railway Company (KCS) (collectively, Petitioners), submitted a joint petition requesting that the Surface Transportation Board (STB or Board) initiate a rulemaking proceeding to establish a new voluntary arbitration program for small rate disputes.  Joint Petition for Rulemaking to Establish an Alternative Voluntary Arbitration Program for Small Rate Disputes, Ex Parte 765 (filed July 31, 2020).

Petitioners stated that Congress had instructed the Board to develop “simplified and expedited methods for determining the reasonableness of challenged rates in those cases in which a full stand-alone cost presentation is too costly, given the value of the case.”  Id., slip op. at 1.  Over the last thirty years, “the Board has responded by creating multiple new simplified, and increasingly less precise, rate review methodologies.”  Id.  However, some stakeholders in the shipping community have continued to complain that the Board’s implied methodologies are insufficient in regard to flexibility, cost, and speed.  Id.

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IMO Guidelines On Maritime Cyber Risk Management

The International Maritime Organization (“IMO”) acknowledges that the increasing prevalence of cyberattacks on ships constitutes an inherent risk to the safety of vessels, crewmembers,  passengers, cargo, and the marine environment.  Both the IMO Maritime Safety Committee and Facilitation Committee have focused their attention on the urgent need to raise awareness of the need to (1)  identify vulnerable systems, and (2) create procedures to thwart and recover from malicious cyberattacks.  

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The ATLP Transportation Forum XVII Webinar Series Starts Next Thursday REGISTER NOW

The ATLP Transportation Forum XVII webinar series starts next Thursday, November 5 at 2 pm EST and runs every Thursday at 2:00 pm EST except for Thanksgiving and Friday, Dec. 4th. Over the years, this one-day event has been hosted by the Surface Transportation Board in Washington, DC. This year, you can participate from the comfort of, what is now, your “favorite chair!”



This year’s Forum program will include:



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DOT Publishes Guidance on Revised Federal Drug Testing Custody and Control Form

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requires drug and alcohol testing for personnel performing safety-sensitive functions in the transportation industry, such as truck drivers holding a Commercial Driver’s License who operate a truck that requires a hazardous materials placard (49 C.F.R. Part 382) and operators of natural gas and other hazardous liquids pipelines (49 C.F.R. Part 199).

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PHMSA Commits Over $100 Million to Improving Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety

On October 5, 2020, the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced an award package totaling $7,810,213 to fund 10 pipeline safety research and development (R&D) projects. The projects will support pipeline safety priorities including Damage/Threat Prevention, Leak Detection, Anomaly Detection/Characterization, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), and Improved Materials. The projects were selected by the Merit Review Panel, which consists of 28 members from PHMSA, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and members of the pipeline and LNG industry.

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A LABOR FOCUSED FUTURE

This promises to be a time of quickly accelerating changes in labor relations, catalyzed in part by remote work in the context of Covid-19 and, parallel to that, the potential for new structures for labor relations if a new Congress advances the re-writing of traditional labor relations envisioned in the so-called “PRO” Act, amending the National Labor Relations Act, the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, inter alia. The latter matters because we may see reversals of decade long entrenched employer protections in those statutes, a novel penalty scheme, and, for the first time, private rights of action.

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ATLP Association Highlights: PASSENGER RAIL UPDATE

Introduction

Recent news in the passenger rail transportation regulatory field includes the following:

♦   FRA Awards $47.5M to CRISI Grant to NCDOT
♦   FRA Plans Releases Final Rule of Particular Applicability and Record of Decision for Texas Central Railroad
♦   Massachusetts’ Lawmakers Push for State Acquisition of Pan Am Railways
♦   Colorado Receives Funding for Passenger Rail Study
♦   Montana Hosts Virtual Rail Passenger Summit

Read on for details.









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Whistle-Stop

Association Highlights is off this week, but we thought you might enjoy a brief post on presidential whistle-stop campaigns. 

The morning after Tuesday’s presidential debate between President Trump and Vice President Biden, Mr. Biden is hitting the campaign trail via train departing from Cleveland and making five stops in Alliance, Ohio; Pittsburgh; Greensburg, Pa.; and Latrobe, Pa., and ending in Johnstown, Pa.

Presidential campaigns have long utilized train travel to connect with voters.  According to the Constitution Center, William Henry Harrison was the first to do so in a losing bid for the presidency in 1936.  Although, he lost that race, he won in 1940 and traveled by rail to Washington, D.C. 



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Talking Transportation with Jennifer Homendy – Board Member, NTSB

In the alphabet soup of federal transportation agencies– DOT, FRA, FHWA, TSA, STB – only one can be said to capture the attention of the general public.  The NTSB.  No other transportation agency possesses a first responder like presence on the scene of a transportation disaster and no other transportation agency looks quite as commanding as the NTSB does in its prominent blue windbreakers emblazoned with the agency’s initials across the back. 

The National Transportation Safety Board plays a unique role in transportation policymaking in that it serves as an investigative body following transportation disasters and it is an advocacy organization promoting safety recommendations.  The NTSB holds no authority to require agencies to adopt its recommendations.  Instead, it uses its “Most Wanted List” as an advocacy tool to advance transportation safety policies. 

I wanted to learn more about how the NTSB works, so I reached out to NTSB Board Member, Jennifer Homendy.  She is the 44th member of the NTSB, she took the oath of office in August 2018.  Prior to that Member Homendy spent 14 years as the Democratic Staff Director of the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.  During her career at Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials she worked on transportation reauthorizations and major transportation safety legislation including the 2008 Rail Safety Improvement Act that mandated Positive Train Control (“PTC”) on the nation’s railroads.  

What you will find in this conversation is – not only – a discussion of the NTSB, but an inside look at how transportation safety legislation becomes law.  We discussed a range of topics including the NTSB’s early advocacy for PTC technology:





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Ninth Circuit Rules that Oregon Tax Discriminated Against BNSF in Violation of 4-R Act

On July 8, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision affirming a district court ruling in favor of BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) regarding the railroad’s challenge to Oregon’s tax on intangible personal property as a discriminatory tax on railroads in violation of the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act (4-R Act).  BNSF Ry. Co. v. Or. Dep’t of Revenue, 965 F.3d 681 (9th Cir. 2020).

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The Board Issues a Final Rule in the Market Dominance Streamlined Approach Proceeding

The Board adopted a final rule establishing a streamlined approach for pleading market dominance in rate reasonableness proceedings.  Market Dominance Streamlined Approach, Ex Parte 756 (STB served Aug. 3, 2020).  This decision finalized a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) served in this proceeding on September 12, 2019.  The Board received comments from over 20 entities on the NPRM.  As explained below, the Board in the final rule adopted the NPRM proposals with minor modifications.

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The Board Withdraws Proposal to Revise its Methodology for Determining the Railroad Industry’s Cost of Capital

On June 23, the Board withdrew its proposal to revise its methodology for calculating the cost-of-equity component of the railroad industry’s cost of capital by incorporating a third model, based on comments and replies the Board received in response to the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM).  Revisions to the Board’s Methodology for Determining the R.R. Indus.’s Cost of Capital, Ex Parte 664 (Sub-No. 4) (STB served June 23, 2020). 

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ATLP: A Year in Review

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your President for the 2019-2020 year.  Needless to say, it was an eventful year and not exactly what we anticipated.  We were very much looking forward to the annual meeting in Vancouver, BC.  I think we showed flexibility when the COVID 19 health crisis and corresponding travel and gathering restrictions made an in-person annual meeting unworkable.  I want to thank the Board for their hard work and support during this time.  Thanks also to our Program Chairs, Louis Amato-Gauci and Jameson Rice, who put together an impressive array of topics and speakers for the annual meeting which we were able to present to the membership in a series of online webinars.  This enabled us to realize a substantial percentage of our budgeted revenue for the meeting which was enhanced by the savings of meeting expenses in Vancouver.  It is my hope that the Association will be able to resume in-person meetings soon, maybe as early as the Transportation Forum this fall.  It is also my hope that the Association will be able to hold the meeting in Vancouver at some point in the future as it is a spectacular venue.

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New Hours of Service Rule Will Allow Drivers More Flexibility

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued its long-awaited final rule on changes to hours of service requirements in a move intended to increase flexibility for truck drivers and motor carriers. The final rule is based on a proposed rulemaking that was announced August 14, 2019. The final rule was published on June 1, 2020 and will go into effect on September 29, 2020. The final rule includes four key revisions to the existing hours of service requirements:

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Return to Work – Return to Litigation?

Robert is a partner with AALRR and a member of the firm’s Return to Work Task Force. He is a co-author of the AALRR Return to Work Tool Kit

Many of the waking hours of executives in the modes and their counsel have been filled with navigating the emergency rules and regulations that have been issued at the federal and state level arising from the Covid-19 Pandemic.

The new legal framework for remote work, economic benefits and relief, social distancing, testing and matters of testing and personal protective hygiene, returning to work poses challenges.  However, returning to normalcy brings its own irony for employers - a return to issues of traditional labor law, albeit in new ways. That is our topic here.



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The Board and the FRA Address COVID-19 Impacts

Both the Surface Transportation Board (STB or Board) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) have taken certain steps to address impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Board announced that, starting on March 17, 2020, all filings and other submissions should be made electronically.  Until further notice, the Board will not be accepting paper filings or providing paper copies of any decisions or other materials.  STB Homepage, https://prod.stb.gov/.  The STB has also granted certain deadline extensions in proceedings where requested due to COVID-19 impacts.  E.g., Ass’n of Am. R.Rs.—Petition for Declaratory Order, FD 36369 (STB served March 19, 2020); Petition by the Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp. (Amtrak) for Proceeding under 49 U.S.C. § 24903(c)(2), FD 36332 (STB served March 17, 2020). 

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Supreme Court Holds A Safe-Berth Clause In A Charter Is A Warranty Of Safety By The Charterer

On March 30, 2020, the Supreme Court decision in Citgo Asphalt Refining Company v. Frescati Shipping Co., Ltd, No. 18-565, held that a safe-berth clause in a charter party (a maritime contract for the use of a vessel) constitutes a warranty of safety imposing liability on the charterer, notwithstanding its diligence to select a berth.  The landmark decision, authored by Justice Sotomayor, affirmed the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and resolved a split between the Fifth Circuit and the Second Circuit.  The Court rejected the argument that a charterer may avoid liability under a charter party by simply exercising due diligence in selecting a berth. 

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