WASHINGTON (December 20, 2022) — The Surface Transportation Board (STB) released long awaited rules that will provide shippers and carriers with quicker and simpler options for resolving small rail rate cases. Under the new Final Offer Rate Review (FORR) and the Voluntary Arbitration Program, the STB will now have more streamlined processes for addressing disputes involving unreasonable freight rail rates.
“These new procedures are an important move in the right direction that will provide the STB, railroads and shippers with a speedier option for resolving small rate cases in the absence of effective market competition,” said Dr. Kimberly Wise White, the American Chemistry Council’s vice president of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs. “Instead of lingering on for years, rate cases can be resolved in a matter of months. Adopting these new rules helps the Board fulfill its Congressional mandate to ensure reasonable rates for shippers that lack competitive transportation options.”
The adoption of two new processes responds to recommendations by the STB’s Rate Reform Task Force, which called on the Board to make its procedures more workable and accessible to all shippers. In addition to the Task Force, FORR is also supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Academies Transportation Research Board.
The Voluntary Arbitration Program will become operative only if all seven Class I carriers commit to participating in the program for five years. If all Class I carriers do so, they will be exempt from the FORR procedure.
There’s still plenty of work to do to bring U.S. freight rail policies up to speed. We strongly encourage the Board to adopt additional long overdue reforms that will help head off future problems and provide shippers with better access to competitive and reliable rail service.