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Senate bill addresses ‘unreliable’ freight-rail service

U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) have introduced the Reliable Rail Service Act to address “unreliable service and high costs of rail shipping” for U.S. businesses, the lawmakers announced yesterday.

The bill would establish specific criteria for the Surface Transportation Board to consider when evaluating whether rail carriers are meeting their “common carrier obligation” to give shippers the certainty that is currently lacking, according to a press release issued by Baldwin’s office.

The act would clarify the common carrier obligation, which under current law requires rail carriers to serve the wider shipping public “on reasonable request,” the senators said. The law would ensure the largest freight railroads provide reliable service at “reasonable rates,” they added.

“Current ambiguity around this principle has contributed to insufficient rail services and exorbitant costs for American products to get to market,” the press release states.

Members of the agriculture industry, labor organizations, energy producers and manufacturers have endorsed the bill.

“Clarification of the common carrier obligation has been needed for decades and this bipartisan bill provides STB with clear oversight rules to help address our nation’s freight railroad supply-chain challenges and improve rail service for agricultural shippers,” said Mike Seyfert, president and CEO of the National Grain and Feed Association.