The Surface Transportation Board (STB) has published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in which the Board seeks comments on the establishment of regulations which will require all Class I railroads and the Chicago Transportation Coordination Office (CTCO) to "report certain service performance metrics on a weekly basis."1

The NPRM follows a year in which the STB held hearings on nationwide rail service issues, sought comments on the state of the rail network and ordered specific railroads to provide status reports on rail service issues in order to monitor the fluidity of the railroads on a temporary basis.  Most notably, in October of 2014, citing reports from rail shippers about service problems on multiple carriers, the Board ordered all of the Class I carriers and the CTCO to provide weekly data reports in order to "give the agency and stakeholders access to data needed for real-time understanding of regional and national service issues."  Since October, the railroads have submitted data—including average train speed, dwell time, and cars on line—on a weekly basis.  According to the NPRM, "the weekly filings have allowed the Board and rail stakeholders to monitor the industry's performance in near real-time, and allowed the Board to begin to develop baseline performance data."3

The reporting requirements set forth in the NPRM are based on the reporting requirements published in the STB's October decision with some modifications which are detailed in a chart included in the NPRM.  The STB designed the metrics "to impose as small a burden as possible" on the railroads, and argues that this burden is outweighed by the "benefit to the Board, rail shippers, and other stakeholders." 

Some shipper groups, like the National Grain and Feed Association, appear towelcome this news, while other industry experts question the relevance of "generic" reporting measures that might provide a global picture but fail to provide more nuanced industry-specific or region-specific data.  Meanwhile the railroads may bristle at increased reporting requirements.  In October, the Chairman of the Association of American Railroads said "It is unclear how the increased reporting requirements [] will in any way lead to improved service."  Given the involvement of so many players in last year's hearings on nationwide rail service, the Board can expect to receive significant feedback on the proposed reporting requirements.

Comments on the NPRM are due on March 2, 2015 and reply comments are due by April 29, 2015.