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Bill Proposed to Improve Rail Service for Grain Industry

Clarifies definition for judging whether a railroad is meeting its service obligation


The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) issued a statement supporting the Reliable Rail Service Act, a bill introduced September 27 by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., that would better define Class I rail carriers’ common carrier obligation.

The Staggers Act of 1980 required rail carriers to serve the wider shipping public “on reasonable request,” a principle known as the common carrier obligation. However, more than 40 years later, the common carrier obligation remains poorly defined with no established criteria.

The Reliable Rail Service Act statutorily clarifies the common carrier obligation and establishes specific criteria for the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to consider when determining whether a railroad is meeting this obligation to provide rail service.

If the STB determined a carrier was not meeting its common carrier obligation, the bill would empower the STB to prescribe service standards consistent with the needs of the shipper making the request.

“NGFA thanks Sen. Baldwin for her leadership in responding to severe rail service issues that have caused supply chain disruptions, endangered the delivery of feed to livestock, led to grain processing facilities slowing and shutting down, and negatively impacted U.S. grain exports,” NGFA President and CEO Mike Seyfert said.

“Clarification of the common carrier obligation has been needed for decades and this bill would strengthen STB’s oversight authority to help address our nation’s freight railroad supply chain challenges and improve rail service for agricultural shippers.”

Similar language is included in the Freight Rail Shipping Fair Market Act (H.R. 8649), introduced in the House on Aug. 2 by House Transportation and Infrastructure Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Donald Payne Jr., D-N.J.

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