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Feds want service improvement updates from 4 Class I railroads

The plans and additional data could inform STB’s future actions

The Surface Transportation Board is requiring four Class I railroads to submit service improvement plans. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The Surface Transportation Board has instructed four U.S.-based Class I railroads each to submit a report outlining how they expect to improve rail service. The board is also asking for additional data on operations and employment from all the Class I railroads. 

The request follows STB’s  two-day hearing April 26 and 27 held in response to reports from shippers about deteriorating rail service. Rail labor, rail experts and the railroads themselves spoke at the hearing.

Four railroads — Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP), BNSF (NYSE: BRK.B), CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) and Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) — will submit service recovery plans as well as provide biweekly written progress updates, and they will participate in biweekly conference calls with STB staff. 

STB is also asking all seven Class I railroads to submit weekly service performance data and monthly employment data. The performance data will include service metrics such as terminal dwell, train starts and recrews, among other metrics. The service metrics data STB seeks will be more comprehensive and customer-centric, STB stated Friday afternoon.

The submitted plans and data will help STB assess whether further actions may be needed. The requirements also aim to promote industrywide transparency, accountability and improvements in rail service, STB said. 

“Requiring additional reporting from railroads may not be the final result of our hearing on service issues,” STB Chairman Marty Oberman said in a release. “Today’s decision is an immediate step the Board can take to enable needed monitoring of the improved efforts the railroads have been promising for months, and to determine if additional regulatory steps are necessary to promote reliable service.”

The evidence from last week was “overwhelming” and reflected the railroads’ practice of reducing operation ratios by cutting employment levels, mothballing locomotives and eliminating other essential resources, Oberman said. These actions in turn directly impacted farmers and manufacturers and “are harming the nation’s economy and, in my view, are contributing to the inflationary forces affecting food and fuel in particular,” he said.

STB’s announcement and further details are available here. The hearing is part of STB’s proceeding Ex Parte 770 on rail service issues. 

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.