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Surface Transportation Board seeks to modify waybill sample reporting

A crew member on a train. Image: Shutterstock

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) is considering revamping the calculations included in the waybill sample as part of wider efforts to make the rate review process more accessible, efficient and transparent, the agency said on Nov. 29.

Waybills are documents that take information from a railroad’s bill of lading contract or a shipper’s instructions; this information includes originating and terminating freight stations; the railroads that are involved in the shipment; the points of railroad interchanges; the number and types of cars; the car initial and number; the movement weight; the commodity; and the freight revenue. 

Freight railroads must submit waybill samples monthly or quarterly to the Board, and they are used to provide context for situations such as rate cases, exemption decisions, traffic and volume studies, stratification reports and analyses of industry trends. 

The STB is seeking to simplify the sampling rates for non-intermodal carload shipments while specifying separate sampling strata and rates for intermodal shipments. The current practice has varying sampling rates based on the number of carloads on a railroad’s waybill. The Board says these proposed changes would result in a more “robust” waybill sample that could help the STB and others with their decision-making and analyses “without creating an undue burden on the railroads.”

This proposed changes stem from recommendations made by the agency’s Rate Reform Task Force, which had held informal meetings throughout the U.S. in 2019 before releasing a report in April 2019 on its findings. 

The Board’s decision is here. The agency is accepting comments on this proceeding, Ex Parte 385, through January 28, 2020, with replies due by February 27, 2020.

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.