Rail Customers Honor Thune for Improving Freight Rail Service

Rail Customer Coalition presents first annual award for advancing policies that improve freight rail service

April 19, 2016

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, was honored last night with the first annual Murdo MacKenzie Award for advancing public policies that improve freight rail service and the American economy. The award was presented by the Rail Customer Coalition (RCC), which is comprised of associations representing manufacturing, agriculture, and energy freight rail customers.

“I am honored to receive this award for my efforts on behalf of Americans who depend on railroads for shipments and deliveries,” said Thune. “While we still have work to do, the reforms we enacted to the Surface Transportation Board help address many frustrations in the oversight of the freight rail industry in States like South Dakota.  

Last year, Sen. Thune led the first successful effort to reform the Surface Transportation Board (STB), the federal regulatory body responsible for economic oversight of the nation’s freight rail system, and also helped avert the negative economic effects of a railroad service shutdown by extending the deadline of a federal requirement for the implementation of positive train control technology.

Murdo MacKenzie (1850-1939), the namesake of the award, was the head of Matador Land and Cattle, the founding president of the American Stock Growers Association, and a prominent advocate for railroad customers.  His testimony before the Commerce Committee in 1905 was instrumental in the passage of the Hepburn Act of 1906, one of the centerpiece freight rail regulation laws of the 20th century. Sen. Thune’s hometown, Murdo, South Dakota, on the old Milwaukee Road rail route, was named after Mr. MacKenzie.

Last week, Sen. Thune and Commerce Committee member Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) were honored for their efforts to advance a more robust rail system with the “Golden Spike” award from the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP).