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Published: 14 July 2011      

NITL calls for switching reform

The US National Industrial Transportation League (NITL) has filed a petition with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) asking it to adopt new rules governing reciprocal switching between Class I rail carriers

NITL's President Bruce Carlton said the existing regulatory framework governing competitive access orders has failed and “no shipper has ever succeeded in gaining access to a competitive line in today’s regulatory framework.”

The STB has recently held hearings on the competitive rail access rules and has called for straightforward, specific proposals with clear standards and “our proposal fits the bill” NITL said in a statement.

NITL is asking the STB to “eliminate its existing competitive rules and precedents as they apply to reciprocal shipping” and start again with a new proposal that would let any shipper apply to the STB to impose a competitive switching agreement where four conditions are met:

  • the shipper’s facility is served by only one class I rail carrier
  • there is no effective inter or intra modal alternative
  • a working switching interchange is within a 30 mile distance of the shipper’s facility
  • competitive switching is not unsafe or would not unduly hamper rail services.

NITL's General Counsel Karyn Booth said this could be achieved through new regulations without requiring any changes to existing legislation. Carlton emphasised that the proposal is not a call for “open or forced access” to any and all rail networks.

Booth added that switching aggrements would most likely be practical for carload shippers, rather than those moving bulk commodities such as coal in dedicated trains.

NITL has not discussed its proposal with Class I rail carriers and Carlton did not know how many shippers might want to take advantage of it, but it would be “in the dozens at least” he said.

The proposal was developed by a special task group in consultation with NITL’s membership that holds a “fundamental belief in market competition” he added.

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