The Surface Transportation Board issued a rail demurrage billing rule that requires Class-I railroads to incorporate information needed by shippers on their railcar demurrage bills.
The required information includes:
- The billing cycle covered by the invoice.
- Unique identifying information (e.g., reporting marks and number) of each car involved.
- Where applicable, information about, among other things, the date the waybill was created, the status of each car as loaded or empty, the commodity being shipped, the identity of the shipper, consignee and/or care-of party, and the origin station and state.
- The dates and times of, among other things, estimated arrival, receipt at the last interchange, actual/constructive placement and ordered-in and release of each car.
- The number of credits and debits attributable to each car.
Beginning several years ago, some of the nation’s biggest railroads pursued a campaign of changing demurrage and accessorial fee practices that made it virtually impossible for shippers to avoid them, gouging customers with the aim of exploiting these charges to generate additional revenue.
The abuses attracted the interest of Congress and the STB, both of which held hearings on the matter. The lack of information on the rail bills was a prominent complaint, because it made it impossible for customers to appeal or challenge the charges.
“We thank the board for providing necessary tools that shippers can use when monitoring and
addressing demurrage service and billing problems they have experienced,” said Shelley Sahling-Zart, president of the Freight Rail Customer Alliance.
Although the STB did not adopt all of FRCA’s recommendations, such as penalties for a Class I carrier that doesn’t comply with billing rules, “these new minimum requirements should make a positive difference for shippers and receivers moving forward,” added FRCA spokesperson Ann Warner.