Grain Transportation: New Class 1 Railroad Regs Proposed – DTN

Weekly service performance reports from railroads may become a permanent requirement following a recent decision by the Surface Transportation Board (STB).

On Dec. 30, the STB issued a proposal of new regulations for permanent weekly reporting by all Class I railroads and by the Chicago Transportation Coordination Office (CTCO). The current order requiring weekly service updates was on a temporary basis and had no expiration date.

The weekly filings have allowed the board and rail stakeholders to monitor performance and have allowed the board to begin to develop baseline performance data. “Based on the board’s experience with the reporting to date, the board is now moving forward with a rulemaking to determine whether to establish new regulations for permanent reporting by the members of the Class I railroad industry, the Class I carriers operating in the Chicago gateway, and the CTCO through its Class I members,” the STB said.

The permanent collection of weekly performance data would improve the STB’s ability to “identify and help resolve future regional or national service disruptions more quickly, should they occur,” the board said. “Transparency would also benefit rail shippers and other stakeholders by helping them to better plan operations and make informed decisions based on publicly available, near real-time data, and their own analysis of performance trends over time.”

The entire STB decision can be found here.

A second Dec. 30 proposal directs BNSF Railway Company to “submit a detailed description of the contingency plans the carrier would use to help mitigate an acute coal inventory shortage at one or more generating stations in a region.”

With respect to BNSF and coal specifically, the STB stated, “Totality of the information collected to date suggests that BNSF’s coal service has struggled, although there has been some progress in recent weeks.” The board stated it is critical they continue to closely monitor BNSF’s performance for indications of improving or deteriorating service.

“In addition to monitoring BNSF’s coal service performance via the data we collect,” said the STB, “we will continue to hold regular meetings with BNSF senior management so that we can receive first-hand information about the challenges and progress BNSF is experiencing with respect to all service issues, including coal.”

Here is the link to the entire decision by the STB concerning this issue.

Comments and replies on both decisions may be submitted either with the board’s e-filing format or in the traditional paper format. Comments are due by March 2, 2015. Reply comments are due by April 29, 2015.

BNSF REPORTS COLD, SNOW, PNW LABOR DISPUTE HAVE SLOWED TRAFFIC

Below-zero temperatures and blizzard conditions in the Midwest and Northern Plains required reduction of train lengths across the northern portion of the network last week, according to the BNSF website. The restrictions were expected to remain in place through the past weekend until temperatures return to more normal levels early this week.

“Despite the harsh conditions, our team of over 300 rapid responders has helped keep the network running strong with just some minor weather-related delays,” said BNSF. “In addition, we continue to experience strong performance gains due to additional locomotive availability and reduced post-holiday season volumes.”

The railroad also said it is continuing to manage service inconsistencies at ports in the PNW and California because of the ongoing labor dispute. Because of work slowdowns causing some disruptions, “temporary restrictions on export/import traffic were briefly instituted and subsequently withdrawn as volumes proved manageable,” the BNSF website said.

The U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service announced on Monday, Jan. 5 that it was “prepared and ready to render prompt assistance.” The AP reported last week that pressure, both political and financial, has been mounting while each party faults the other for the sluggish movement of billions of dollars of cargo across the docks at 29 seaports that form a vital trade link with Asia.


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