The Surface Transportation Board (STB) recently held a public hearing on a Petition for Rulemaking to Adopt Revised Competitive Switching Rules (EP 711).

The petition to modify the STB’s standards for mandatory competitive switching was submitted by The National Industrial Transportation League's (NITL). The NITL proposal would allow certain captive shippers located in terminal areas be granted access to a competing railroad, if there is a working interchange within a reasonable distance (30 miles).

Sharon Clark of Perdue Agribusiness testified before the STB in support of the NITL petition on behalf of the National Grain & Feed Association (NGFA), ARA and several other agribusiness and commodity organizations.

Clark provided several recommendations to revise the NITL proposal to make it more accessible and relevant to agricultural rail shippers. Some of the recommendations included expanding the "reasonable distance" from a working interchange point to reflect larger geographic areas that agribusinesses operate and vary competitive switching fees based on unit size, as a one-size-fits-all approach will not work.

Clark stated, "chickens should not be forced to go on a diet" because railroads cannot provide even close-to-normal service.

The STB board is evaluating whether to launch a formal proceeding with its own proposal. However, that process could take months and may be delayed further until the new STB commission nominee – Deb Miller – is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.