Filing documents and issuing payments to the Surface Transportation Board will get easier.
Effective in May, the board will proceed with a new system meant to allow for greater reliance on online tools as a way of improving its services for stakeholders.
Additionally, the board plans to review issues that shippers and third-party logistics companies have about railroad detention and other charges.
As for the updates to the new system, they pertain to reports about board decisions, as well as associated fees for printing and copying. Specifically, these revisions include the implementation of the online payment option via pay.gov, which is operated by the U.S. Department of Treasury.
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Also, it will allow electronic filing for nearly every document, and stop requiring that 10 copies of paper filings be submitted for nearly every situation.
Additionally, the board announced it would do away with requiring that electronic versions for printed filings that are 20 or more pages in size be submitted via compact discs or floppy diskettes. Instead, such filings will need electronic versions as well.
The board also will offer electronic filing options of its decisions for those who prefer that method, and the board will modify charges for the printing and copying of tariffs, reports and other relevant documents.
In an announcement March 22, STB indicated it “anticipates that these changes will significantly increase the use of e-filing, the use of electronic payment systems, and the efficiency of service of board decisions.”
The new system takes effect May 10, and it is part of the board’s Regulatory Reform Task Force, meant to carry out improvements on initiatives and policies. The task force was created to comply with the sentiment of a 2017 executive order on regulatory reform.
“In addition to the management of the direct expenditure of taxpayer dollars through the budgeting process, it is essential to manage the costs associated with the governmental imposition of private expenditures required to comply with federal regulations,” according to the executive order.
The board had commenced the path toward adopting online tools in a notice of proposed rulemaking in August 2018.
“The proposed updates are intended to … result in cost savings to both the board and the public, while enhancing the accessibility of information relating to proceedings and functions of the board,” it stated in the 2018 notice. “The board proposes to harmonize its rules by eliminating the requirements to file extra copies of paper filings. Instead, paper filers generally would be required to file only the original paper filing.”
Additionally, the board has scheduled a hearing for May 22 to examine concerns stakeholders such as railroads, shippers and third-party logistics may have about railroad demurrage and accessorial charges. The board indicated the meeting also is meant to provide the audience a forum in which to share concerns about “reciprocity, commercial fairness, operational and capacity issues, and effects on network fluidity.” A time, location and participation instructions for the May 22 meeting have yet to be announced.
Congress has charged the five-member governing board to resolve service and rate disputes across the freight rail industry. In recent years, certain industry stakeholders have taken issue with the board’s pace with regard to addressing their concerns.
This year, President Donald Trump nominated Michelle Schultz to become a member of the Surface Transportation Board. Her experience includes the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. The U.S. Senate has yet to consider her nomination in the 116th Congress. Her nomination for the board during the 115th Congress expired upon the Senate’s adjournment.