Moving Grain:  STB Issues Guidance on Demurrage

Photo: U.S. Grains Council

 STB Issues Guidance on Demurrage

On April 30, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) issued three decisions regarding demurrage and accessorial charges. Railroads charge demurrage when excessive time is taken to load or unload rail cars. In one decision (effective May 30, 2020), STB clarified the principles it considers in evaluating the reasonableness of demurrage and accessorial rules and charges.

For instance, STB stated that demurrage charges based on factors outside shippers’ control do not fit the legitimate intent of incentivizing efficient handling of rail cars.

In a second STB decision, a final rule (effective June 20, 2020) specified billing requirements for demurrage when third parties are involved.

Finally, STB invited parties to comment on minimum information to be included on Class I carriers’ demurrage invoices.

Comments are due by June 5, 2020, for the first round and July 6, 2020, for the reply round. According to the Association of American Railroads, grain represented about 9 percent of railroads’ total originated tonnage in 2018.

FMCSA Adopts Crash Accountability Program

Effective May 1, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has permanently installed a new pilot program, the Crash Preventability Demonstration Program.

Grain News on AgFax

The program allows crashes in certain eligible categories not to be counted in a motor carrier’s safety measurement profile if the carrier was not at fault. Carriers with eligible crashes that occurred on or after August 1, 2019, can submit a request for data review with the required documentation through the agency’s DataQs website.

The FMCSA is in the process of expanding the type of crashes that will be considered.

DOT Releases Preliminary Estimates of Highway Crashes

Highway truck fatalities were down for a third consecutive year in 2019, according to data released by the U.S Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Since 2018, fatalities decreased 1.2 percent (36,120) overall.

Truck traffic fatalities were down despite a 1-percent increase in vehicle miles traveled (which would typically correlate with increased traffic fatalities). Region 1 (Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) had the largest decrease in fatalities (8 percent), while Region 4 (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee) had a 2-percent increase.

Fatalities in crashes involving at least one large truck and drivers over 65 increased by 1 percent in 2019. Nine of 10 regions had net decreases in traffic fatalities in 2019. Final data for 2018 and the 2019 annual report file will be available in late fall of 2020 and may include revised estimates.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

For the week ending April 30, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 22.7 million metric tons (mmt). This represented a 15-percent decrease in outstanding sales, compared to the same time last year.

Net corn export sales were 0.775 mmt, down 43 percent from the past week. Net soybean export sales were 0.653 mmt, down 39 percent from the previous week. Net weekly wheat export sales were 0.245 mmt, down 48 percent from the previous week.


U.S. Class I railroads originated 22,653 grain carloads during the week ending May 2. This was a 4-percent increase from the previous week, 2 percent more than last year, and 4 percent lower than the 3-year average.

Average May shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $213 below tariff for the week ending May 7. This was $64 less than last week and $271 lower than this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.


For the week ending May 9, barge grain movements totaled 793,314 tons. This was 7 percent less than the previous week and 115 percent more than the same period last year.

For the week ending May 9, 506 grain barges moved down river—28 fewer barges than the previous week. There were 640 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 6 percent more than the previous week.


For the week ending May 7, 33 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—10 percent more than the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting May 8), 42 vessels were expected to be loaded—22 percent fewer than the same period last year.

As of May 7, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $35.00. This was 3 percent less than the previous week. The rate from PNW to Japan was $18.25 per mt, 3 percent less than the previous week.


For the week ending May 11, the U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased 0.5 cents from the previous week to $2.394 per gallon, 76.6 cents below the same week last year.

Full report.

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