Washington, DC - The House of Representatives today unanimously passed a bipartisan bill to reauthorize and reform the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the STB in regulating the U.S. freight rail industry.
S. 808, the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015, which passed the Senate earlier this year by Unanimous Consent, was approved today in the House by voice vote. The legislation now goes to the President.
“The STB plays an important role in ensuring a balanced, fair regulatory environment for both the railroads and its customers, but the agency hasn’t been reauthorized or reformed since it was created,” Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) said. “This bill makes common sense improvements to increase the efficiency of the agency’s processes and decision-making, and ensures that the successful U.S. freight rail transportation system is not smothered by unnecessary regulatory burdens.”
“These much-needed reforms give the STB the ability to be responsive and effective as they work with our railroads to ensure safe and efficient transportation for goods and passengers nationwide,” said Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham (R-CA).
The U.S. freight railroads were deregulated in 1980, a policy decision that helped bring the industry back from the brink of bankruptcy. Deregulation has generally benefited railroads, through financial viability and right-sizing, as well as shippers, through lower rates and better service. The STB was established in 1996 upon the termination of the Interstate Commerce Commission to resolve railroad rate and service disputes and review proposed railroad mergers, among other duties.
S. 808 is the first reauthorization of the STB and update in railroad economic regulation in the 20 years since the agency’s establishment. The bill does not follow some previous attempts at re-regulating the rail industry, but rather provides sensible reforms that:
Reduce litigation costs for small businesses, such as grain shippers;
Give more certainty to railroads and shippers in the decision-making timeline and process; and
Provide more efficient options for service dispute resolutions.
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