By Justin Franz
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Surface Transportation Board announced Friday that all seven Class I railroads will have to submit reports on rail service, performance and employment, and four of them will need to provide plans on how they will get service back on track.
The request for more information and transparency comes a week after the STB hosted a two-day hearing on the Class I service crisis. During that hearing, shippers and labor blamed Class I’s alleged worship of low operating ratios and Precision Scheduled Railroading. But Class I executives placed the blame on the supply-chain crsis and the tight labor market.
BNSF Railway, Union Pacific, CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern will all have to submit service recovery plans in the coming weeks. The three other Class Is — Canadian Pacific, Canadian National and Kansas City Southern — will not have to submit such plans but will be asked to submit reports on performance and employment. The four main U.S.-carriers will also need to participate in bi-weekly conference calls with staff.
“Our freight rail service hearing highlighted the grave concerns of shippers and others regarding freight rail service,” said Chairman Martin J. Oberman. “While the railroads have faced certain challenges over the last few years, the evidence produced at last week’s hearing is overwhelming that the railroads’ longstanding practice of reducing operating ratios by cutting employment levels, mothballing locomotives, and eliminating other essential resources are the central reasons why farmers have been hours away from depopulating herds, manufacturing facilities have reduced operating hours, and shippers cannot get their products to market on time or receive essential raw materials for their companies. These failures are harming the nation’s economy and, in my view, are contributing to the inflationary forces affecting food and fuel in particular.”