The National Industrial Transportation League said in its current newsletter that a proposal it submitted in 2011 to increase direct rail-to-rail competition "represents one of the best efforts to achieve rail regulatory reform since the passage of the Staggers Act over 30 years ago."
The league said it has been preparing its response to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) inquiry on whether to consider its proposal for a new rule to govern competitive switching.
It said submissions on the proposal, docketed by the STB as Ex Parte No. 711, Petition to Adopt Competitive Switching Rules
, are due to the agency by March 1.
The NIT League said the proposal is also being supported by other groups representing rail customers that "argue the agency’s current rules on switching are onerous and impractical with unrealistically high barriers, so high that no shipper or receiver has been able to meet them."
The league explained its competitive switching proposal would put in place new standards which would require a Class I railroad to enter into a competitive switching arrangement with another Class I railroad when:
- The shipper or receiver’s facility or facilities are captive to one Class I railroad.
- There is no effective inter- or intramodal competition for the movements.
- There is or can be a working interchange between a Class I rail carrier and another carrier within a reasonable distance of the captive facility.
In its weekly newsletter, the shippers' organization referenced a study from the American Chemistry Council that said lack of freight rail competition is costing U.S. chemical companies billions of dollars in excess shipping costs each year
The chemistry council said in 2010 U.S. chemical shippers paid a $3.9 billion premium on freight rail shipments, and has called for increased competition.
Glenn English, chairman of Consumers United for Rail Equity (CURE), a coalition of rail dependent shippers, said the chemistry council's study
"provides critical data about a problem that is costing American companies billions of dollars and American workers tens of thousands of jobs. While these new findings focus on chemical and plastic shipments, the problem is just as dire for farmers, electric utilities, lumber and other manufacturers who depend on rail for shipping and who together make up a broad swath of the U.S. economy.
"Congress can fix this problem. Acting to guarantee competitive rail service, giving freight rail shippers the same antitrust protections relied on by all other U.S. industries to ensure competitive markets and ensuring the Surface Transportation Board has the tools to enforce the law would be enormous steps toward strengthening the U.S. economy, enhancing the competitiveness of American companies and creating good jobs here at home," he added. - Chris Dupin