“There hasn’t been a U.S. Secretary of Transportation address to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) in over 20 years, so the fact that [Secretary Pete Buttigieg] is here this morning indicates the seriousness of the problem that instigates this hearing,” Chairman Martin Oberman told attendees at the April 26 STB hearing on Urgent Issues in Freight Rail Service.
From April 26-27, the public hearing will discuss recent rail service problems and recovery efforts involving BNSF Railway Company, CSX Transportation Inc., Norfolk Southern Railway Co. (NSR), and Union Pacific Railroad Co. The hearing includes testimony from carriers, rail customers, labor organizations, and other interested persons.
The first panel of the morning included Buttigieg; Jewel Bronaugh, deputy secretary of agriculture, and Carl Bentzel, commissioner of the Federal Martime Commission (FMC).
In his testimony, Buttigieg noted any meaningful response to supply chain issues must include rail. “Freight rail is an indispensable part of our national economy,” he says. “We know many challenges have emerged … It’s been a problem for people and industries across the country who rely on rail to move their goods.”
Prior to the hearing, the STB heard informally from a broad range of stakeholders, including ISRI and its members, about inconsistent and unreliable rail service. According to the STB’s April 7 press release, those reports have been validated by the board’s weekly rail service performance data.
“The STB is taking a holistic approach to the supply chain issues,” explains Billy Johnson, ISRI’s chief lobbyist. “A lot of the supply chain in the U.S. is based on railroads, so the board is examining the source of the problems and the tools available to respond effectively and efficiently.”
Buttigieg noted in his testimony now is an historic opportunity to transform rail transport for years to come. “We need to make sure that we’re making the right choices,” he says.
ISRI will provide testimony on Wednesday, April 27, as part of Panel IX. Ben Abrams, president and CEO of Consolidated Scrap Resources Inc. (CSR), will speak before the STB. Abrams is a member of ISRI and a member of the STB’s Railroad-Shipper Transportation Advisory Council (RSTAC).
You can watch the STB hearing at 9 a.m. EDT April 27 on YouTube.
Image courtesy of Dmitrii Vaccinium via unsplash.com