The Board Invites Comments on Issues Related to First-Mile / Last-Mile Service

On September 2, 2021, the Surface Transportation Board (Board) issued a decision stating that it was seeking comments on issues related to first-mile / last-mile (FMLM) service, which refers to the movement of railcars between a local railroad serving yard and a shipper or receiver facility.  First-Mile / Last Mile Service, EP 767, slip op. at 1 (STB served Sept. 2, 2021).  The Board noted that it is seeking information on FMLM service “[a]fter hearing concerns raised by shippers across numerous industries and requests for transparency of FMLM data.”  Id.

            The Board stated that it actively monitors the national rail network on an informal basis, including network fluidity and service issues.  Id.  The Board has received a number of letters regarding FMLM service issues, including letters from the Rail Customer Coalition, the American Chemistry Council, and The Fertilizer Institute.  Id., slip op. at 2.  Additionally, on August 31, 2020, the Freight Rail Customer Alliance, the National Coal Transportation Association, the National Industrial Transportation League, and the Private Railcar Food and Beverage Association, Inc. (collectively, Shipper Group) submitted a letter to the Board stating that “their members have become increasingly aware of and concerned by what they describe as the gap between the service data that the railroads report to the Board and the level of service that shippers receive in the real world.”  Id., slip op. at 3.  The Shipper Group stated that they were seeking improved transparency related to FMLM service issues and suggested that such transparency could be achieved by having rail carriers report appropriate data.  Id.

            The Association of American Railroads (AAR) replied to the Shipper Group’s letter on September 10, 2020, “stating that the request is unnecessary and undefined, that data collection would not be practicable or meaningful, and that shippers have remedies for service concerns.”  Id.  Additionally, Union Pacific responded to the Shipper Group on September 21, 2020, “stating that it already provides local service metrics at the customer level and that aggregated metrics would not provide customers with meaningful representation of their local service levels.”  Id., slip op. at 3-4.  The Shipper Group replied on October 8, 2020, stating that “data reporting on FMLM issues would not be unduly burdensome, that it would be useful regardless of some inconsistencies between carriers, and that it is needed because it would help the Board better monitor carriers’ service and the data available to individual shippers does not allow the Board to ‘ascertain whether carriers are meeting their common carrier obligations in the aggregate.’”  Id., slip op. at 4.

            In its decision served on September 2, 2021, the Board stated that it is seeking comment from the shipping community, carriers, and the public regarding what FMLM issues they consider relevant, if any.  Id.  The Board is also seeking comment on whether further examination of FMLM issues is warranted and what actions may help address such issues, if any.  Id.  The Board noted that, of particular importance, the Board is “seek[ing] recommendations as to specific additional data commenters view as important to identify FMLM service concerns that is not now being reported to the Board.”  Id.  Additionally, the Board is seeking information regarding potential burdens of any suggested data collection and reporting.  Id.  The Board listed various questions in the decision and noted that answers to the questions “would be helpful when identifying [FMLM] issues.”  Id.  The decision states that comments were due on October 18, 2021, and replies would be due on November 16, 2021.  Id., slip op. at 6.

            On September 21, 2021, the Board issued a decision granting a motion filed by the American Chemistry Council and The Fertilizer Institute to extend the deadlines for comments and replies.  First-Mile / Last Mile Service, EP 767 (STB served Sept. 21, 2021).  Comments are now due by December 17, 2021, and replies are due by February 17, 2022.    

 

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