The Surface Transportation Board wants the four U.S. Class I railroads to continue to report additional service figures over the next six months as they look to further improve service.
STB order, signed by all five board members, calls for weekly data collection by the four railroads, new service targets they plan to meet by May 2023 and monthly employment data collection. The railway must also submit any changes they have made to the service restoration plans, or indicate whether they intend to make any changes.
In May, the board asked BNSF (NYSE: BRK.B ), Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP ), CSX (NASDAQ: CSX ) and Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC submit service recovery plans as well as ordinary ones service progress reports over the next six months, detailing terminal occupancy, train dispatches and re-crews, among other metrics.
The collection of these STB data was a response to complaints of shippers and others that rail service deteriorated in the first half of 2022 in part due to pandemic-related absences. There was also concern that the railway had cut its ranks too much in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and accurate regular railwaymethod used to streamline operations, and when market demand resumed, the railroads lacked the capacity and crews to handle the additional volumes.
In its order, the board noted that the four railroads “appear unlikely” to meet all of their service improvement targets by the end of the interim reporting period, and that the railroads have not yet returned service to pre-2019 pandemic levels. The board also acknowledged the railroad’s arguments that restoring service would take time.
“The most recent data shows that four operators are currently meeting some of their six-month service improvement targets, with many key performance indicators trending positively,” STB said in a Friday news release. “However, the data continues to support the anecdotal information that continues to flow into the council regarding significant maintenance issues. Key performance indicators such as speed, terminal dwell time, first/last mile (FMLM) service (i.e. branch point and pull), operating inventory and schedule compliance indicate that rail operations remain challenging overall, and especially compared to pre-pandemic 2019 levels. Accordingly, continued observation is necessary.”
STB also noted that while not all Class I railroads experience maintenance problems equally, problems can spread quickly because the rail system is an interconnected network.
“The committee believes that it should continue to monitor the performance of the four carriers and recruitment efforts in light of current and future challenges such as the fall harvest and the holiday season,” the STB order said. “The coming months will be a critical time for the four carriers to demonstrate resilience in the context of these additional challenges.”
The order details the goals each railroad has set for itself, as well as the progress each has made. The measurement of this progress is based on service performance data that the railroad has submitted to the STB.
In response to STB’s message, Jeff Sloan of the American Chemistry Council applauded the council’s decision to extend the data collection. Sloan said the data is valuable because it provides information on on-time performance and delivery of local services.
“Continued monitoring is necessary because the board has concluded that the four largest carriers are unlikely to meet all of their six-month service improvement targets, and performance remains below the same period in 2019,” said Sloan, who is a senior ACC executive. . director of regulatory and technical issues.
He added that to solve the problems of STB rail service, there is a need to adopt rules that solve the problems that arise in the first and last mile.