The National Grain and Feed Association has submitted comments to the Federal Surface Transportation Board asking for Class I rail carriers to continue reporting rail service data to the STB weekly.
The STB's proposal, dated Dec. 30, 2014, would make permanent an October order specifying additional reporting for railroads whose tracks move through Chicago.
Currently, the STB requires that the major rail carriers report, among other things, weekly average train speeds, weekly average terminal dwell times, weekly average cars online, the number of trains held short of destination or scheduled interchange points, and various loading metrics for grain, coal, automotive and other categories of service.
NGFA said in its comments that failure to continue reporting would revert to data "previously provided by railroads that proved insufficient to predict or monitor the serious degradation in rail service that occurred in 2013-14."
Many rail carriers are against the STB's proposal.
Lesser reporting, NGFA's comments said, is "grossly deficient and would not achieve the objectives clearly articulated by the [STB] and supported by rail customers in this rulemaking – namely, providing the agency with sufficiently precise, standardized and timely rail service performance data across different carriers to perform its proper oversight functions and provide rail customers with sufficient actionable information on which to adjust logistical plans in the event of a future significant disruption in rail service."
NGFA said that while it commended some carriers that have developed and implemented more monitoring, such systems were "far from universal across all carriers and have varying levels of capability and utility."
One of the principal problems during the 2013-14 rail service meltdown was the "lack of systematic, ongoing, accurate communication from some Class I carriers with their customers – a repeated complaint of NGFA member companies," NCFA said.
The NGFA's reply comments also encouraged the STB to retain its proposed requirement that sufficient commodity-specific reporting of rail service performance data be submitted by rail carriers, rather than the railroads' proposal to provide only "macro-level" reporting metrics limited to cars-on-line, train speed and terminal dwell times.
The STB now will consider the reply comments submitted in this proceeding and determine whether, and if so, when, to issue a final rulemaking on permanent rail service data reporting.