Rockefeller Says His Railroad Reform Bill Will Increase Competition - Helping Consumers and Shippers

January 26, 2011

Chairman Rockefeller remarks on the Toyota recall.WASHINGTON, D.C. — Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV today said that his bill to reform the rail industry will improve rail service, create new jobs and make the industry and U.S. goods more competitive both here and abroad.

Rockefeller said his bill, known as the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2011 will be a priority for the Commerce Committee this year. He also noted that President Obama used his State of the Union address to encourage Congress to “redouble” efforts to rebuild America’s infrastructure and create jobs. Senator Rockefeller introduced the bill last night.

“America is long overdue for a competitive, efficient, and balanced transportation network,” Chairman Rockefeller said. “It is crucial to the health of our economy and the future of our rural communities. That is why I have reintroduced the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act. During this critical period for our economy, it is essential that we act now to effectively meet our country’s transportation needs for the 21st century. I look forward to working with my colleagues to tackle these reforms.”

The Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2011 would comprehensively update and improve the economic oversight of the railroad industry and address longstanding, competitive imbalances for shippers by increasing rail competition, strengthening federal oversight, and improving shippers’ access to regulatory relief.

The legislation would:

  • Increase rail competition by requiring major railroads to quote “bottleneck rates,” setting standards for “reciprocal switching” and “terminal access” rates, creating a process for parties to challenge “paper barriers,” and increasing Surface Transportation Board (STB) scrutiny of future railroad mergers for competitive, service, and environmental effects;
  • Strengthen STB oversight of the railroad industry by updating the rail transportation policy, giving the Board independent investigative authority, and creating a strong rail customer advocate to help resolve shippers’ concerns; and
  • Improve shippers’ access to regulatory relief by improving the processes by which rate complaints are resolved, requiring railroads to provide service standards to shippers, requiring the STB to review current class exemptions for unregulated railroad traffic, and by setting lower fees for filing complaints at the STB.