The Surface Transportation Board (STB) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) April 22 to amend its rarely used emergency service rules.
Where rail service failures impose substantial costs on shippers, a region, or the general public, emergency service orders can provide immediate relief, but shippers believe the application process is too slow and burdensome.
The proposed modifications would reduce barriers for shippers seeking emergency service orders in several ways:
First, the need for a commitment from an alternative railroad to start the proceeding would be eliminated.
Second, the proposal would shift — from the shipper to the railroad —the burden of informing STB about any potential effects of an emergency service order on safety and service.
The proposal would also shorten the procedural schedule: the railroad would have to reply within three business days (instead of five) of the filing date, and the shipper would be allowed two business days (instead of three) for its rebuttal.
STB also clarified that it expects to decide on a filing within five business days of receiving the rebuttal.
Given the industry’s serious ongoing service issues, STB set a short comment period for the proposal.
Comments on the NPRM are due May 23, and replies are due June 6.