Rail Customer Coalition calls on White House to confirm STB nominees

Earlier this week, top membership for the Railroad Customer Coalition (RCC), a large coalition of trade associations representing the manufacturing, energy, and agricultural industries reliant on railroads, penned a letter to President Trump, calling for the “urgent need” to fully staff the Surface Transportation Board (STB), an independent adjudicatory and economic-regulatory agency charged by Congress with resolving railroad rate and service disputes and reviewing proposed railroad mergers.

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Earlier this week, top membership for the Railroad Customer Coalition (RCC), a large coalition of trade associations representing the manufacturing, energy, and agricultural industries reliant on railroads, penned a letter to President Trump, calling for the “urgent need” to fully staff the Surface Transportation Board (STB), an independent adjudicatory and economic-regulatory agency charged by Congress with resolving railroad rate and service disputes and reviewing proposed railroad mergers. 

This is a follow-up to a letter that the RCC sent to President Trump in January, which called on the President to appoint new members and a chair to the STB. Since that time, the White House has nominated three people-Patrick Fuchs, senior professional staff member for the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Michelle Schultz, deputy general counsel for The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority; and Martin Oberman, a Chicago-based attorney and former chairman of the board of directors for Metra-to serve on the STB.

“A fully-staffed STB is essential to achieving freight rail policy reforms that will streamline overly burdensome regulatory procedures and promote greater competition in the rail sector,” the RCC letter stated. “The STB has been without a functioning complement for almost two years and subsequently American workers and businesses-manufacturers, small businesses, farmers, and energy producers-continue to face increasing costs and a lack of competitive options as the STB is unable to act.”

The RCC added that movement on confirming the three STB nominees, for unrelated reasons, has stalled, running the risk that they remain unconfirmed at the end of the 115th Congress. What’s more, the letter added that the term and holdover year of STB Vice Chairman Deb Miller expires at the end of 2018, leaving the STB with just one of five Board members. 

“Our primary concern is a functioning STB, which cannot happen without confirmation of your three pending nominees,” RCC wrote. “Getting the STB on track will help your Administration maintain the current economic successes and continue to create jobs and grow the economy for all Americans. Therefore, we write to respectfully request that you reach out to Senate leadership to underscore the importance of a functioning STB and encourage the confirmation of your STB nominees, which have already won bi-partisan approval, in the remaining weeks of the 115th Congress. We also request that you re-nominate, as soon as possible, Vice Chairman Miller to serve a second term on the board.”

At last month’s RailTrends conference in New York, which was hosted by Progressive Railroading magazine and independent railroad analyst Tony Hatch, STB Chairman Ann Begeman said that staffing to full levels remains an ongoing issue for the STB.

“The STB is one of the smallest federal agencies,” she said. “We have 112 people and need about 140. I certainly wish we could have $25,000 sign-on bonuses like some railroads have done this year. We are working hard to fill positions and are awaiting three new Board member positions to get confirmed, and I look forward to working with all three of them.”  


About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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