US Surface Transportation Board requires rail transparency

By The Bakken Magazine Staff | November 12, 2014

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., announced the U.S. Surface Transportation Board has taken action that will require transparency from all railroads by revealing more data about their rail shipment delays for all products including Bakken crude.

This spring, Heitkamp testified before the STB during a field hearing in Fargo where she discussed the need to continue holding the railroads accountable for agriculture shipment delays across the state. Heitkamp also pointed out Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Canadian Pacific each reported nearly 3,000 past-due cars in North Dakota.

The order requires all Class I railroads, including BNSF and Canadian Pacific, to release data including average speeds, dwell times, number of cars loaded and emptied weekly, number of grain cars ordered, loaded, billed, overdue and cancelled by state. According to Heitkamp, this will allow the STB to see any changes in delays of agriculture shipments and if there are delays of other products, such as crude oil and coal.

“For more than eight months, our farmers and grain elevators have lost out because of serious agriculture shipment delays across the state,” said Heitkamp. “To stop these delays, prevent them in the future, and help our farmers do their jobs, we need to hold the railroads accountable. Over the past several months, I’ve been in regular contact with STB Chairman Daniel Elliot and pressed him to look at the delays in our state and determine if there’s anything the agency can do.”

According to the STB, the board currently monitors various metrics of railroad performance, but it agrees there is a need for broader standardized performance data from the railroad industry as it continues to address existing service challenges.

According to Heitkamp, the STB is taking needed action to hold the railroads accountable, requiring more transparency from the railroads on all products shipped on the rails, and making sure all products—whether grain, oil, coal, or anything else—be treated equally and fairly in how they are transported.

“Chairman Elliot understands the serious consequences of delays on the rails, and he and I will continue to work together to make sure we can reduce this backlog so our nation’s producers, processors, and their families continue to thrive,” said Heitkamp.

In July, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced proposed rules for the transportation of flammable materials in the form of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and a companion Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.