June 03, 2016

03/06/2016: NGFA urges STB to release railroad performance metrics to US agricultural industry

The NGFA recently submitted a 15-page statement to the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) urging that it proceed to issue a final rule requiring Class I railroads to report key rail service performance data on a permanent basis.
NGFA: "Accurate and scientifically specific transport"

However, while commending the STB for issuing a proposed rule that would require such reporting, the NGFA encouraged the agency to require that carriers report more specific rail service metrics, particularly for processed agricultural commodities (such as vegetable oils and vegetable meals) and local service reports (represented by "Industry Spot-and-Pull" reports) if requested in writing by rail customers. 

In doing so, the NGFA cited recommendations contained in a 2015 National Academies of Sciences Transportation Research Board (NAS/TRB) study that found that service data provided by carriers on an aggregated, summary basis for different types of rail traffic "are too coarse to make meaningful determinations about service quality."  

In its statement, the NGFA commended the STB for its "continued commitment to enhancing the transparency and accountability of Class I rail carriers regarding rail service performance reporting," noting the absence of such information during the severe service disruptions in the fall, winter and spring of 2013-14 exacerbated the severity and extent of service disruptions and limited the ability of rail customers to make alternative logistics plans. 

The NGFA specifically supported the STB's proposal to add three new rail service reporting requirements not previously mandated, including average grain shuttle or dedicated grain trips by region or traffic corridor, although NGFA urged that such reporting be provided weekly (rather than monthly, as proposed by the STB), as well as weekly reporting of carloads originated by major commodity types.

"...[A]ccurate and sufficiently specific rail service performance data provided in a timely, consistent and uniform format are critical for the agricultural industry to be able to make necessary adjustments to business and logistical plans, storage and marketing strategies, and customer-specific responses - including farmer-customers - if there are future disruptions in reliable, predictable rail service," the NGFA said. 

"The ability to do so is critical to minimizing, to the degree possible, the economic harm throughout the agricultural value chain...." 

Read more HERE

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