In one of the most significant efforts to open up rail transportation systems in the country, President Biden’s executive order on Friday afternoon authorized the Surface Transportation Board to adopt reforms that shippers have long sought to promote competition.
The order also implements a requirement for railroads to provide online access to specific information on freight rates, service levels and booking methods. That will apply to both Classes I railroads and small carriers.
As Biden noted, the Surface Transportation Board has the legal authority to impose these reforms. He said that was a “legal authority I intend to exercise.”
The STB will have 270 days to implement the rate transparency rules for railroads.
According to those familiar with the situation, the president is using his own executive order here because he is trying to bypass Congress and find ways to increase competition among railroads and shippers. He also wants to get the process started before the end of the year.
The order is aimed at increasing transparency and improving competition in railroad markets.
Biden sat down with Jimmy Squires, the president of the Norfolk Southern Railway, and Ian Jefferies, the president of the Association of American Railroads. Hamberger was one of those that met with Biden at the White House last month to discuss ways to boost rail freight deliveries.
The AAR and railroads have been seeking greater transparency from shippers on rates and service and getting access to rail traffic control infrastructure currently owned by major carriers.
Biden met with the industry leaders one week after a bipartisan group of 24 House members proposed legislation that would give the STB more authority to regulate rates in the railroad market. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), would take up to 1 year to implement and could cost up to $1 billion a year, the railroads said in a joint statement released last week.
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