The Board Issues a Notice of Public Hearing Concerning Urgent Issues in Freight Rail Service

On April 7, 2022, the Surface Transportation Board (Board) issued a decision announcing that it will hold a public hearing on April 26 and 27, 2022, concerning recent rail service issues and recovery efforts involving several Class I carriers.  Urgent Issues in Freight Rail Service, EP 770, slip op. at 1 (STB served Apr. 7, 2022).

The Board stated that, in recent weeks, it has informally heard from a variety of stakeholders about inconsistent and unreliable rail service, including tight car supply and unfulfilled car orders, delays in transportation for carload and bulk traffic, increased origin dwell time for released unit trains, missed switches, and ineffective customer assistance.  Id., slip op. at 2.  Additionally, the Board has received reports from stakeholders about the serious impact of these service issues on rail users, particularly shippers of agricultural and energy products.  Id.  

The Board further stated that it has been closely monitoring weekly rail service performance data submitted pursuant to 49 C.F.R. part 1250, and the data validate the anecdotal information that has been reported to the Board.  Id.  Key performance indicators, including system average train speed and average number of trains holding per day, indicate that performance is below historical norms.  Id.  The Board noted that, while it appreciates the challenges caused by the pandemic, these trends demonstrate that service has continued to deteriorate.  Id.  Thus, “the Board has determined that the service issues may have reached a level that requires action by the Board.”  Id.

The Board directed executive-level officials of BNSF Railway Company (BNSF), CSX Transportation, Inc. (CSXT), Norfolk Southern Railway Company (NSR), and Union Pacific Railroad Company (UP) to appear at the hearing “to discuss the recent rail service problems, each carrier’s ongoing and planned efforts to improve service, and each carrier’s estimated timeline for recovery of normal service levels.”  Id., slip op. at 1.  The Board also directed each railroad to address the extent to which crew shortages may have contributed to these service issues and their plans, if any, to change and improve their hiring and employee retention policies to alleviate the crew shortages that appear to be among the central causes of the current service issues.  Id., slip op. at 3.  

The Board noted that it is directing BNSF, CSXT, NSR, and UP to appear “because most recent service issues involve these four carriers.”  Id., slip op. at 3 n.3.  In addition, because the service problems have also been occurring to some degree on an industry-wide basis, the Board invited executive-level officials of Canadian National Railway Company (CN), Kansas City Southern Railway Company (KCS), and Canadian Pacific Railway Company (CP) to appear.  Id., slip op. at 3.  The Board also encouraged affected rail customers, labor organizations, and other interested parties to appear at the hearing “to discuss their service concerns and comment on carriers’ efforts toward service recovery.”  Id.

The public hearing will be held at the Board’s headquarters and will be available for viewing on the Board’s website.  Id., slip op. at 1, 4.  Notices of intent to participate were due by April 14, 2022.  Numerous parties are scheduled to appear at the hearing, including BNSF, CSXT, NSR, UP, CN and CP; U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg; the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; the Commissioner of the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission; shippers; and labor organizations.  See Urgent Issues in Freight Rail Service, EP 770, slip op. at 2-6 (STB served Apr. 22, 2022).

Share this post: