The Surface Transportation Board may enjoy a full complement of five members if the Senate acts to confirm two nominees submitted by President Trump.
Earlier this month the President nominated Robert E. Primus to be one of two Democrats on the board, for a term expiring Dec. 31, 2023. He has served on the congressional staffs of lawmakers in the Senate and the House. It was reported that railroad interests indicated they have no problem with his nomination.
The Primus nomination is paired with that of Republican Michelle A. Schultz, whose confirmation was held back since 2017 pending the nomination of a Democrat. She served previously as deputy general counsel for commuter mass transit operation, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA),
Rail customers expressed hope the nominees’ confirmation will lead to increased enforcement actions will be taken in regard freight railroads that currently enjoy monopoly status within the regions they serve.
“The confirmation of Ms. Schultz and Mr. Primus will allow the board to live up to its obligations under the Staggers Act and continue to pursue sensible reforms that will benefit everyone,” the Rail Customer Coalition wrote in a letter to members of the Senate Commerce Committee.
“The Act’s benefits are no longer so widely shared as a lack of competition among railroads – due to widespread industry consolidation – has led to steep premiums for the same or lower quality of service and the imposition of operational changes without concern for their negative impact on shippers. Such reforms will increase access to competitive freight rail service and market-based rates, while cutting red tape and allowing the Board to operate more effectively.”
The RCC consists of 70 organizations representing a wide range of rail customer industries, including the International Warehouse Logistics Association.
Earlier this year the STB adopted rules aimed at reforming the rate review process and fixing widespread problems with their application of freight rail demurrage and accessorial fees (AA, 5-15-20, P. 3).