WASHINGTON — On Aug. 2, four chairmen introduced the Freight Rail Shipping Fair Market Act, which will reauthorize the Surface Transportation Board. The authors of the legislation include Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), chair of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials; Peter DeFazio, chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; David Scott (D-GA), chair of the House Committee on Agriculture; and Jim Costa (D-CA), chair of the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture.

The bill responds to rail customers’ — particularly those from agricultural and energy sectors — concern about inconsistent rail service.

“I am pleased to join Chair Payne on the Freight Rail Shipping Fair Market Actwhich will hold the freight rail industry accountable for their appalling service to shippers and ultimately help American families burdened by the increased price of goods,” DeFazio said. 

“It is imperative that our rail network is reliable, and yet consolidation and Wall Street pressures on railroads to cut costs and increase profits have made that near impossible,” he added. “This bill will level the playing field and provide railroad customers — many of which are transporting key food and energy products — the service they deserve.”

The legislation will specifically:

  • Strengthen the Board’s authority to address rail service emergencies;
  • Require rail contracts to include service delivery standards and remedies, while leaving details to be privately negotiated between parties;
  • Provide the Board with clear direction to resolve common carrier obligation complaints;
  • Create financial incentives for both railroads and their customers to efficiently move railcars;
  • Support freight railroad efforts to identify where freight is located on their systems while in transit; and
  • Adequately fund the Board to allow for quicker dispute resolution when petitioned. 

“The pandemic has wreaked havoc on every segment of our economy,” Costa said. “It has disrupted our supply chain, both in terms of imports and exports and has put our agricultural community at great risk. The time is now to sit down with rail carriers to fix this broken supply chain system.”