Common Carrier Obligations

[Draft language for Congress]

It is time to clarify Common Carrier Obligations of railroads, particularly in regards to the interstate (Class 1) railroads, but also in relation to the connectivity of and access to mainlines and branch line service. Since the 1976 Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act gave the ICC the authority to exempt from rail regulation any rail transaction or service for which by reason of its limited scope regulation was not deemed necessary to carry out the national transportation policy as stated in the Interstate Commerce Act, the very definition of Common Carrier Obligation has been perverted and increasingly rendered this fundamental common law principle nugatory. Congressional action is necessary to:

    1. Update the national transportation policy to reflect the 21st century public interest in decarbonization, equitable and affordable access, and supply chain resilience.

    2. Restore meaning to the concept of Common Carrier based on the public benefits of equitable, accessible, reliable and affordable service that does not discriminate according volume or distance in ways that undermine the opportunity of smaller or rural shippers and the public to benefit from the efficiencies and harm reduction of rail transport and its role in local, regional, and national supply chains.

    3. End the distorting practice of granting commodity and service exemptions and revoke existing exemptions and

    4. Instruct the STB to expand the scope of rate complaint process to include access to service and the range of parties with standing to include municipalities negatively impacted by inadequate or discriminatory service.

Rail is an essential element of a 21st Century transportation infrastructure. Its capacity, safety, reliability and efficient operation is a public good commensurate with interstate highways, rural electrification, and postal service. If the US experiment with private railroads in service of shareholders is incompatible with the 21st Century public goods and national transportation goals, then a transition to a new system - such as open access separating infrastructure from carriers - must be initiated.

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  • Bill Moyer
    published this page 2021-07-02 18:18:19 -0700
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