The Agricultural Transportation Working Group – a diverse network of national farm, commodity group and agribusiness organizations, including the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) – called upon the Surface Transportation Board (STB) on Aug. 17 to aggressively continue its efforts to examine the underlying reasons for the precipitous, deteriorating rail service being provided by CSXT.
"We are concerned that CSXT's already-chronic service problems may only worsen as demand for rail service increases during the fall peak season, which will include near-record grain and oilseed harvests," states the letter, which was signed by 18 national producer, commodity and agribusiness organizations.
The groups noted that America's transportation infrastructure – including freight rail – is an "essential component of U.S. agriculture's world-class productivity and competitiveness, which contribute substantially to American job creation, U.S. economic growth and world food security."
The letter outlined a litany of significant service-related problems experienced thus far by CSXT's agricultural rail customers. The organizations asked the agency to continue to press the railroad for its plan to rectify the harm it has caused to its customers over the past few months and to restore service to levels that comply with CSXT's statutory obligations to provide reasonable service upon reasonable request.
The working group expressed its appreciation for the STB's action in sending its July 27 letter to CSXT President and CEO E. Hunter Harrison requesting that senior CSXT railroad officials engage in weekly conference call updates with the agency's Rail Customer and Public Assistance Office, as well as for its follow up letter sent Aug. 14 to Harrison expressing continued concern and requesting specific data addressing various service-performance indicators. However, the organizations urged the STB to take additional actions to facilitate the restoration of service before the peak fall shipping season.
"We respectfully believe that the gravity and widespread geographical nature of CSXT's service disruptions warrant further action by the (STB) to determine the underlying causes, the short- and long-term implications to rail customers, and the adequacy of any service recovery plan(s) being contemplated by CSXT," the letter states.
Among several specific requests, the groups asked the STB to hold CSXT accountable to meet specific, measurable targets for restoring service under its recovery plan, to explore ways to provide additional transparency regarding substantive information on CSXT's service performance that would be valuable to rail users in their logistics planning, and to promptly resume activity on existing Board proceedings related to enhancing rail competition, particularly to replace the agency's outdated rules governing reciprocal switching that could help alleviate some of the harm incurred by shippers captive to an incumbent railroad by enabling them to receive service from an alternative carrier.