WASHINGTON, DC, US — Increased competition and financial incentives were among several proposals for more efficient and reliable railroad service in the United States presented by members of the Agricultural Transportation Working Group in an April 21 letter to the Surface Transportation Board (STB).

Representing 33 agricultural organizations, the group’s letter outlines several measures addressing rail service concerns and suggests potential solutions. 

“The current inability of several Class I carriers to provide reliable rail service to their customers is impacting farmgate commodity prices and elevating food prices for consumers,” the letter noted. “Future service challenges can be deterred, or even prevented, through increased competition, and by implementing financial incentives for railroads to perform more efficiently utilizing the same concepts that railroads use to incentivize their customers to be more efficient.”

The STB was commended for its recent decision to accept public comments on a petition to allow rail customers to levy financial penalties on railroads for inefficient use of private railcars, many of which haul agricultural commodities. The group also urged the STB to finalize rulemaking on reciprocal switching rules, which would allow shippers served by a single railroad to request bids from a nearby competing railroad.

Additional data reporting, STB-developed guidance for its expectations on rail carriers meeting their statutory service obligations and annual rail service assurance plans to anticipate and prevent future challenges were proposed by the ag groups as well.

“Reliable and cost-competitive railroad freight service is essential because US agricultural producers and agribusinesses compete in the global market for agricultural products ranging from raw commodities to value-added products, such as meat, poultry, dairy, cotton and biofuels,” the groups stated. 

To view the letter and see a full list of signatories, click here.