Surface Transportation Board Response to Railroad Service Issues

New: Excel Spreadsheet for Railroad Performance Data Reporting (U.S. Rail Service Issues—Performance Data Reporting, Docket EP 724 (Sub-No. 4)), updated on 3-13-17 with an additional fertilizer STCC, available here.

Rulemaking to Make Service Data Reports Permanent

On December 30, 2014, the Board issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (EP-724 (Sub-No. 4)), which proposed to require Class I railroads and the Chicago Transportation Coordination Office (CTCO) to report rail service performance data on a weekly, semiannual and occasional basis. The proposed rule was an outgrowth of the Board's response to the severe rail service challenges that occurred in late 2013 and 2014. In addition to holding public hearings, a key component of the Board's response was to order the Class I railroads to report certain service metrics on an interim basis that would allow the Board to actively monitor operating conditions in the industry (see below). After conducting a public rulemaking proceeding, which included not only written comments but also the opportunity for affected stakeholders to meet with STB staff, the Board issued a final rule on November 30, 2016. The final rule is available here. The final rule adopted modest changes to metrics being reported under the Board’s prior order, based on the agency’s review and consideration of stakeholder input.

Reporting of data under the final rule was originally scheduled to begin on February 8, 2017. However, the commencement of reporting has been postponed until March 29, 2017 due to the change in presidential administrations.

The weekly reports filed by each of the Class I carriers can be found here.

Please note: Consolidated service performance data for all Class I railroads is now available. Click here.

Prior Board Actions in Response to Railroad Service Issues

Interim Data Order

During the winter of 2013-2014, the Surface Transportation Board became aware of a serious decline in rail service across the U.S. rail network, particularly in the upper Midwest region. The Board determined that both the agency and its stakeholders needed greater real-time visibility into the performance of the Class I industry, and the Chicago gateway. In a decision issued on October 8, 2014, the Board directed the seven U.S. Class I rail carriers to report performance data on weekly basis. Specifically, the Board required the railroads to provide data for the following 10 metrics:

  • System average train speed by train type
  • System average terminal dwell
  • Cars online by car type
  • Average dwell time at origin for unit trains by train type
  • Trains held greater than 6 hours
  • Cars not moved in greater than 120 hours and 48 hours
  • Grain cars loaded and billed
  • Grain cars: past due, average days late, new orders, orders filled, orders canceled
  • Grain trains: plan vs. performance
  • Coal trains: plan vs. performance

Data Concerning the Chicago Gateway

In addition, because of the Board’s concerns about fluidity of rail operations in the Chicago area, an important rail hub, the Board also ordered the Class I railroads serving the gateway to jointly submit data on operations in that area. Specifically, the Board ordered the railroads to report on:

  • The average daily car counts in Chicago yards
  • The average daily number of trains held short of Chicago
  • A generally summary of the protocols and alert levels used by the Chicago Transportation Coordination Office (CTCO), as well as a notification when the alert levels are changed

The weekly reports filed by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) on behalf of the railroads can be found here.

In addition, the AAR filed a general summary of the protocols and alert levels used by the CTCO on October 22, 2014. However, the Board determined that more information regarding CTCO was needed, and therefore, in a decision issued on December 30, 2014, directed the AAR to provide more information. The AAR provided a supplemental report on January 14, 2015.

April 2014 Hearing (Washington, DC)

In response to concerns about the impact of service issues on shippers and the broader economy, the Board held a hearing on April 10, 2014. Information on that hearing – including written testimony, video, and transcript – can be found here.

Fertilizer Order

At the April hearing, agricultural producers expressed significant concern about the delivery of fertilizer by rail to support spring planting. In response, the Board issued an order on April 15, 2014, directing BNSF Railway Co. (BNSF) and Canadian Pacific Railway Co. (CP) – the two carriers serving much of the agricultural market in the upper Midwest – to provide weekly reports on their progress moving fertilizer over a six week period. Those weekly reports can be found here: BNSF | CP.

Grain Order

After the hearing, the Board continued to have concerns over the growing backlog of outstanding grain car orders on the BNSF and CP systems. In a decision issued on June 20, 2014, the Board directed BNSF and CP to provide weekly reports on their progress in clearing the backlog. Those weekly reports can be found here: BNSF | CP.

September 2014 Hearing (Fargo, North Dakota)

To monitor the progress of BNSF and CP and to hear from the affected shippers – including shippers of grain, coal, ethanol and other commodities – the Board held a second hearing in Fargo, North Dakota, on September 4, 2014. Information on that hearing – including written testimony, video, and transcript – can be found here. Not long after this hearing, the Board decided that it was necessary to begin receiving data from the Class I rail carriers on their service performance, which lead to the Board’s order directing the carriers to submit weekly reports, as described above.