Wednesday, June 11, 2008

STB Hearing on Railroad Common Carrier Obligations

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) is going to hold another hearing on the common carrier obligations of railroads to transport hazardous materials. This is a follow-up to hearings held in April of this year. The hearing will be held on July 16th. All testimony to be considered at the hearing needs to be submitted to the board by July 2nd.

The Notice in the Federal Register notes that: "The common carrier obligation refers to the statutory duty of railroads to provide ‘transportation or service on reasonable request’ 49 U.S.C. 11101(a)." The earlier hearing identified some concerns that the railroads had with this obligation with the respect to the transport of toxic by inhalation (TIH) chemicals in particular. The railroads noted the extremely high liability costs they risked in the event of an accident involving a railcar load of one of these chemicals.

Information That The STB Is Looking For

The purpose of this hearing is to review the common carrier obligations specifically with regards to the shipment of TIH chemicals. The Board is looking to hear from railroads and industry. The information they are looking for includes:

  • Specific suggestions on how to resolve the liability issue.
  • The role of the STB in resolving the issue.
  • What constitutes a reasonable request to transport TIH chemicals.
  • Identification of unique costs of transporting TIH chemicals.
  • How railroads should recover those costs.
  • What other agencies are doing about the transport of TIH chemicals.

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