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July 19, 2011 8:10 AM, EDT

NIT League Files Petition for STB Adoption of New Freight Railroad Switching Rules

By Greg Johnson, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the July 18 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

The National Industrial Transportation League has filed a petition with the Surface Transportation Board asking the agency to adopt new reciprocal switching rules to allow captive rail shippers to use a second railroad.

The petition, filed July 7, proposes that shippers individually be able to request an order so their freight can be switched to another railroad if there is an interchange within a “reasonable distance” of its facilities.

“The proposal was specifically structured so it would not be viewed as something that is being imposed on the railroads,” said Peter Gatti, NITL’s executive vice president.

Bruce Carlton, NITL president, said the shippers group has not been in talks with the big Class I carriers or the Association of American Railroads in preparing the petition.

An AAR spokeswoman said the group is still studying the NITL proposal.

The petition covers shippers that are served by only one railroad and lack any competition, NITL said.

In its proposal, NITL specified that a competitive switching agreement would not be imposed if either rail carrier believes a change is unfeasible or unsafe or that it would hamper the ability of either carrier to serve its shippers.

A special task group organized under the auspices of NITL’s Railroad Transportation Committee together with the NITL counsel developed the proposal.

A recent survey of the group’s Railroad Transportation Committee found that changes to STB’s reciprocal switching policies were deemed the most important reforms the agency could undertake and would help to provide more reliable and cost-effective rail transportation.

The petition’s filing followed two days of STB hearings in June when shippers and the Class I rail carriers presented contrasting views on the sufficiency of the competitive access rules.

AAR has 20 days to respond from the date of the filing, but STB has 120 days. NITL asks STB to initiate a formal rulemaking schedule.