Surface Transportation Board Issues Proposal on Emergency Service

Rail service hearing this week

The Surface Transportation Board (the Board) on April 23 issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amend its emergency service regulations.

The recent acute service issues have made clear the need for the Board to provide the opportunity for shippers to receive swift action to ensure that the nation’s freight rail traffic continues to move,” the Board noted.

The Board proposes to: (1) amend procedures for parties seeking a Board order directing an incumbent carrier to take action to remedy a service emergency; (2) indicate that the Board may act on its own initiative to direct emergency service; (3) modify the informational requirements for parties in emergency service proceedings; (4) shorten the filing deadlines in emergency service proceedings and establish a timeframe for Board decisions; and (5) establish an accelerated process for certain acute service emergencies.

Comments on the proposal are due by May 23 and reply comments are due by June 6.

NGFA is working with its Rail Shipper/Receiver Committee to assess the impact of this rulemaking and welcomes feedback from all NGFA members. Please direct any feedback to NGFA Chief Economist Max Fisher at

‘Urgent Issues in Freight Rail Service’ Hearing: The Board will host a hearing on April 26-27 on current rail service problems and the recovery efforts involving several Class I carriers that have been directed to testify. NGFA President and CEO Mike Seyfert will appear as a witness. The hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. ET on each day. Watch the livestream online.

“Over the last year, the Board has heard informally from a broad range of stakeholders about inconsistent and unreliable rail service,” the Board stated. “In recent weeks rail service has become even more unreliable, with most stakeholder concerns focusing on crew shortages and inability to move trains.”

NGFA urged the Board to address inadequate rail service being reported by member companies across the country in a March 24 letter to Chairman Martin Oberman. The Association led another letter to the Board signed by members of the Agricultural Transportation Working Group on April 21 outlining several proposals to improve rail service.