The Surface Transportation Board opened an official investigation seeking input from rail shippers on how it should measure and regulate railroad first-mile, last-mile (FMLM) operations.
The board also seeks comment on whether further examination of FMLM issues is warranted, and what, if any, actions may help address such issues,
Shippers have complained in recent years of serious deterioration in the quality – and sometimes utter lack of – this kind of service since major railroads adopted the Precision Scheduled Railroad model.
The PSR model prioritizes lower cost linehaul transportation over other higher cost services, like loading and unloading, and separating cars out to deliver them to local customers’ rail spurs.
In recent years, much of these activities were abandoned or turned over to short haul railroads, and the rest is strongly discouraged via bad service.
If the STB intends to address this issue, it needs to get a better handle on what is going on in terms of numbers and first-hand reports.
The STB has ways of regulating practices in this area, but it needs the right kind of numbers to base its decisions on, which is one reason it opened the FMLM proceeding. As the old saying goes: You can manage what you can’t measure.
Shipper groups have been seeking an investigation of these practices. The board said it opened the proceeding at the request of the
In earlier hearings dealing with demurrage and accessorial charges, shippers also accused the railroads of exploiting FMLM practices to increase the amount of fees customers must pay by making it impossible for them to return rail equipment by the shortened deadlines imposed by the railroads.
These practices include rail-created delays and overburdening shipper facilities by delivering a larger number of cars than expected and that can be promptly turned around.