Transportation Regulation

STB Cuts Costs of Rail Filings

By Steven Johnson | ECT Staff Writer Published: July 12th, 2011

Shippers have made a major advance in contesting railroad rates, as federal regulators say they’ll slash the fee for rate complaints from $20,000 to $350.

Daniel R. Elliott III

Daniel R. Elliott III

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    The Surface Transportation Board announced the change July 7, calling it one way of opening up the process by which shippers challenge rates set by freight railroads to haul coal, chemicals and other commodities.

    “High fees for the filing of formal complaints may discourage shippers and others from bringing complaints before the board,” the three-member STB said in a statement.

    Reducing fees has been a priority for shippers, who have long said the high upfront tab is out of line with filing costs in the judicial system and other regulatory agencies. The $350 fee is the same amount charged by U.S. district courts.

    “The STB should be commended for its effort in lowering filing fees and encouraging previously unrepresented shippers to tell their stories before the commission,” said NRECA CEO Glenn English, chairman of Consumers United for Rail Equity, a shippers coalition.

    The board’s action, effective immediately, finalizes a process it started in February, when it first aired the possibility of cutting fees associated with complaints about railroad rates or unreasonable practices.

    At the time, Chairman Daniel R. Elliott III said, “Charging a small business more than $20,000 to bring a complaint is not right.”

    The board is maintaining its $150 filing fee for expedited small rate cases. It said the changes also should improve management of its docket and resources.

    English urged the board to move on other reforms so shippers, such as coal-based plants, dependent on a single carrier can benefit from more competition and fairer pricing in the industry.

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