| SCDigest Says:
|A key theme across these provisions should be clear: pulling authority away from the Surface Transportation Board, which many see as having historically been to friendly to the railroads, and over to either the FTC or the federal court system.
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Two leading senators pushing for a bill that would have eliminated much of the rail carriers’ anti-trust exemptions decided to postpone a vote that was scheduled for this week, but only in a likely effort to pursue even more comprehensive legislation that would more directly impact rail policy.
The bottom line: Washington observers believe some form of a bill is likely to be passed sometime still this year, but the impact on rail shipper pricing is likely to be 3-5 years away. Key question is what amendments rail carrier lobbyists can drive into the current proposals.
The unexpected postponement of the vote may, in fact, give the railroad industry, which strongly opposes the bill, some breathing room to continue pressing for changes.
"This bill is not just about antitrust law, it is an attempt to overturn long-established regulatory policies that have provided enormous benefits to shippers and American consumers," said Union Pacific Railroad Senior Vice President of Law and General Counsel J. Michael Hemmer.
The rail carriers argue, in part, that these bills should not be implemented in isolation, but rather in the context of, and in coordination with, a broader national rail policy.
"I still am very optimistic that at the end of the day we can defeat a bad bill," Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman said earlier this week. "We have a lot of allies" on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. Moorman said the legislation would ultimately reduce rail service and jobs.
As there are several versions of potential legislation out there, the subject is confusing. The Rail Anti-trust bill that was temporarily withdrawn this week included the following provisions:
- Eliminates the provision against court injunctions against the railroads: This may enable rail shippers to sue in federal courts to test various rail carrier policies, such as so-called “bottleneck pricing,” and perhaps get a court to force the carrier to quote separately each leg of a multi-leg route.
(Transportation Management Article - Continued Below)