This article comes from NGFA's June 30 newsletter.

Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, and Roger Marshall, R-KS, on June 28 announced the introduction of the Reliable Rail Service Act (S.2071), a bill that would better define Class I rail carriers’ common carrier obligation.

NGFA has supported the bill since Sen. Baldwin first introduced the Reliable Rail Service Act in the 117th Congress. During the annual NGFA fly-in, members met with hundreds of lawmakers to discuss several priority issues, including the industry’s support of this legislation.

“Clarification of the common carrier obligation has been needed for decades and this bipartisan bill provides STB with clear oversight rules to help address our nation’s freight railroad supply chain challenges and improve rail service for agricultural shippers,” NGFA President and CEO Mike Seyfert said in a June 28 press release.

“NGFA members appreciate the leadership of Sens. Baldwin and Marshall in responding to rail service issues and cosponsoring this legislation, which will help regulators respond to service disruptions that cause hardship for livestock producers, grain exporters, and grain processing facilities.”

The Staggers Act of 1980 required rail carriers to serve the wider shipping public “on reasonable request,” a principle known as the common carrier obligation. However, more than 40 years later, the common carrier obligation remains poorly defined with no established criteria.

The Reliable Rail Service Act statutorily clarifies the common carrier obligation and establishes specific criteria for the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to consider when determining whether a railroad is meeting this obligation to provide rail service.

If the STB determined a carrier was not meeting its common carrier obligation, the bill would empower the STB to prescribe service standards consistent with the needs of the shipper making the request.

Read more about NGFA’s rail service priorities here.