This article is posted with permission from NGFA’ September 15, 2023, Volume 75 Issue 33 newsletter.

As reported in the Sept. 8 NGFA Newsletter, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for competitive (or “reciprocal”) switching rules. NGFA is reviewing the proposal with its members and will submit formal comments on the NPRM by the October 23 deadline.

“The Board views today’s NPRM as an important step in addressing the many freight rail service concerns expressed by stakeholders since 2016,” STB said in its announcement. “Recognizing the National Grain and Feed Association 3 Return to contents September 15, 2023 importance of finalizing the standards proposed in today’s NPRM, the Board anticipates acting expeditiously on this proposal.”

The proposed rules provide “a streamlined path” for a reciprocal switching agreement when service to a terminal-area shipper fails to meet any of three performance standards, STB said. The three standards proposed by the Board are service reliability, service consistency and inadequate local service.

“Importantly, for the first time, the proposed rule also would require all three service metrics be standardized across all Class I carriers,” STB noted.

STB said the proposed standards “are intended to reflect a minimal level of rail service below which a shipper would be entitled to relief,” and each standard would provide an independent path for a petitioner to obtain a reciprocal switching agreement