Rockefeller Says Balance in America's Freight Rail Network Must Be Restored

March 3, 2011

Chairman RockefellerWASHINGTON, D.C.—Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV issued the following statement after the U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General released a report on the quality of service provided to rail shippers:

“This report provides important new evidence that big railroads are using their growing market power to squeeze concessions out of their shipper customers. Railroads are no longer negotiating in good faith with their customers, but simply offering ‘take it or leave it’ deals that do not guarantee shippers the service quality they need, most notably for coal and lumber shippers. For the big railroads that are moving 90 percent of the rail ton-miles and reaping 90 percent of the revenues, the impact of this behavior on the nation’s shippers is profound. 

“The report also notes that service levels rose in 2008 and 2009, when our economy hit rock bottom. The report suggests shippers will again be at greater risk for poor service as our economy continues to recover from one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression. U.S. businesses must be able to compete in the global economy and should not be paying higher prices for less reliable rail service. My Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2011 would require railroads to provide service expectations so shippers know what they are paying for and have a way to make sure they get it. 

“For the past 30 years, the focus of our freight railroad policy has been to restore the financial stability of the freight rail network. It’s time to shift that focus and make reforms—whether at the Surface Transportation Board, with my bill, or other railroad legislation moving through Congress—that will restore balance and fairness to the freight rail network.”