STB Proposes to Amend Its Emergency Service Regulations

Transportation Update

Date: May 03, 2022

On April 22, 2022, the Surface Transportation Board (STB or Board) released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend its emergency service regulations in response to concerns raised by industry stakeholders. Opening comments are due by May 23, 2022, and reply comments are due by June 6, 2022.

The NPRM follows and builds upon a series of public hearings and informal meetings on service issues, including an October 2017 public hearing on CSX Transportation Inc.’s service issues, ex parte meetings with industry stakeholders in 2018, and the most recent public hearings on current rail service problems held on April 26 and 27, 2022. The Board’s proposed amendments are designed to address concerns raised by stakeholders as to, among other things, the length of time required to obtain a service remedy and the substantial burden placed on petitioners under the current regulations, even when the emergency is acute.

Specifically, the Board’s NPRM includes the following proposals:

  • Clarifying that the Board may direct an incumbent carrier to take action in addition to directing an alternative carrier to provide service,
  • Clarifying that the Board can act on its own initiative as well as pursuant to a petition,
  • Replacing the requirement that a shipper secure a commitment from another railroad to provide alternative service with a requirement to submit only a list of possible alternative carriers with the petition,
  • Shifting the burden to explain whether a proposed remedy would impair a rail carrier’s ability to serve its customers and fulfill common carrier obligations from the petitioner to the incumbent and alternate carriers,
  • Shortening the filing deadlines and establishing a target timeframe for a Board decision on the petition, and
  • Establishing an accelerated process for certain acute service emergencies when there is a clear and present threat to public health, safety, or food security, or a high probability of business closures or immediate and extended plant shutdowns.

For more information about the Board’s NPRM and for assistance in drafting comments, please contact:

Karyn A. Booth

Sandra L. Brown

Jeff Moreno

Jason D. Tutrone

David E. Benz*

Kerem Bilge

*David is not admitted to practice in Illinois; he is admitted to practice only in the District of Columbia and Virginia.

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