There is a lot involved in this proceeding, and more than can be concisely addressed here about the railroads’ reply brief filed February 27, 2013. Free copy available here.
This post focuses on the application made by CF Industries to the U.S. STB seeking it to require that railroads obtain approval prior to making any changes in tariff terms relating to shipment of TIH / PIH loads.
The gist of each side is captured in the railroads’ brief this week:
“… the Railroads would need to obtain prior Board approval and written support for such changes from FRA, PHMSA, and TSA. This request runs contrary to the Staggers Act. The Staggers Act provided railroads with rate freedom, which includes practices. In essence CF is asking that the Railroads file their tariffs with the Board for approval before those tariffs become effective.”
A U.S. STB resolution worth watching for.
On CF Industries’ petition for a declaratory order It is hard to agree with the railroads’ argument that all terms of TIH / PIH freight carriage amount to a question of “rate freedom”. More than economics and price are at stake in the concerntration of TIH / PIH rail cars on a particular train consist or other operational details relating to safety.
Consistent with this safety versus economics fault line in the petition for declaratory order, on January 28, 2013 the U.S. STB asked the Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. DOT hazardous materials safety agency (PHMSA) for comment on the operational terms (“3-car limit” “priority train service” terms) and for TIH / PIH involved in the companion proceeding to this one.
I have no way at this point of envisioning the end-game here.
The railroads fighting these two proceedings contend with their “common carrier” status and related obligation to carry properly tendered loads in the TIH / PIH category. And the chemical and related TIH / PIH shippers cast themselves as “captive” customers to the railroads with no good alternatives either inside the rail sector or outside it with other modes.