STB presses Class I railways for labor, equipment entry
The Surface Transportation Board (STB) has called on Class I railways through a series of recent letters to stay in close contact with regulators as the U.S. economy recovers, peaks in falls approach and that port congestion and the availability of chassis obstruct the supply chain.
Specifically, the board asks Class I railways to provide their long term hiring plans and continue to provide information on demurrage and incidental charges.
STB Chairman Marty Oberman last Thursday sent a letter to the CEOs of the seven Class I railways to provide the board with service updates as the United States experiences an economic recovery from the COVID pandemic -19.
In particular, Oberman wanted to know what the railways are doing to provide enough available operating personnel to ensure the resiliency and reliability of the network, especially in light of the declining trend in rail numbers in recent years. . He also questioned the railways about their plans to ensure adequate availability of equipment.
The demand comes amid reports from shippers of ‘below average’ performance, including missed switches, car delays at intermediate stations and interchanges, extended off-road movements and extended downtime for some. unit trains, according to Oberman. The council has also heard of delayed train arrivals and disruptions in container availability at some intermodal facilities, resulting in delays in train arrivals and disruption in container availability, he said. .
Due to these concerns, STB asks for long term plans for hiring; information on areas where there might be current or anticipated labor issues and how the railways plan to meet these challenges; and updates on the readiness of railways to meet future demand. These updates should include the availability of the train crew, yard and maintenance employees, including deadlines for workers on leave or new employees, and the availability of equipment resources, including plans. for locomotives and stored cars.
“I recognize that these rail service issues, at least to some extent, have been linked to downsizing resulting from COVID-19 cases, quarantines and time off based on the temporary drop in demand and adjustments resulting in effected by railways in almost every aspect of their businesses, ”Oberman said. “But I’m also concerned about the extent to which these service issues may be linked or exacerbated by a broader trend of downsizing rail workers that has been occurring for several years.”
He continued, “It is important to note that the concerns raised by rail customers do not necessarily apply equally to every railroad or region of the country, but to the interconnected nature of our rail system and to the immense importance of the railway. industry to our economic recovery, would require raising the awareness of each class I railroad. “
In a separate letter dated Thursday, the STB berated the Association of American Railroads (AAR) for failing to address congestion issues and concerns about chassis availability raised by an April 14 letter from the Greater Memphis Chamber . The chamber had contacted the board about the supply chain disruption at intermodal facilities in greater Memphis, Tennessee. But AAR weighed in, the trade group instead opted to discuss STB’s regulator on these issues, according to Oberman.
“Instead of a legal and political argument over the perceived limits of the council’s ability to resolve the important issues facing the maritime public, what was asked of the AAR was a constructive response to the essence of the letter from the Memphis chamber, which was seeking to improve what appears to be severe congestion and chassis shortages in the Memphis area, ”Oberman said. “So once AAR decided to weigh in, it would have been appropriate and useful for them to focus their response on practical solutions to reported congestion and scarcity issues and on how interested stakeholders can work together,” or continue to work together, to resolve issues raised by the Memphis Chamber. “
He continued, “If the AAR can still be useful in this area, I would greatly appreciate the association’s suggestions and contribution, in line with its historic role of working collaboratively to improve efficiency, reliability and reliability. security of the country’s freight rail network.
In the past, STB has asked Class I railways to provide information on how they plan to handle the peak fall season.
Continue to send data on demurrage and incidental charges
In another letter to Class I railways dated Friday, STB asked railway CEOs to continue to provide quarterly information on information from demurrage and ancillary charges. The information remains relevant as shippers add volume to the freight rail network as the economy rebounds from the pandemic.
STB first requested this information in December 2018, and this information has enabled the board to monitor revenue trends related to demurrage and incidental charges.
“In light of the board’s close oversight of Class I railroad rules and practices related to demurrage and incidental charges, including our policy statement and final rules on warehouseman liability and minimum requirements for demurrage bills, it’s important for us to continue to receive updates on these revenue streams, ”Oberman said in a Friday statement.
Subscribe to FreightWaves e-newsletters and get the latest freight information straight to your inbox.
Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.