STB asks Class I railroads to report on chemicals and plastics data

A photograph of boxcars and tank cars at a rail crossing.

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) will include certain chemical and plastics traffic as a distinct reporting category that the Class I railroads must include in a weekly report about held railcars.

The Board said Thursday it is adopting a rule on this issue, effective July 20. The rule will apply to all the Class I carriers and the Chicago Transportation Coordination Office. Chicago is a key railroad hub.

The Class I railroads report certain performance metrics for a wide range of commodities on a weekly, semiannual and occasional basis, according to STB. The “cars-held” metric tracks the average number of loaded and empty railcars that haven’t moved for 48 hours or more. 

STB hopes that by including plastics and chemicals traffic as one of the commodities tracked as part of the cars-held metric, that the STB and stakeholders “will be better positioned to monitor chemicals and plastics traffic and detect and mitigate emerging service issues affecting these commodities.”

“We commend the STB for working to ensure that its rail service reporting requirements provide beneficial information to rail customers and other stakeholders. ACC petitioned the STB to modify its reporting requirements to include chemical and plastics traffic as a distinct reporting category for certain reporting metrics,” said Jeff Sloan, ACC’s senior director of regulatory and technical affairs. “As we stated in our comments on the proposed rule, this data will help chemical shippers identify rail service issues, address them with railroads, make internal operational adjustments and manage their railcar fleet.”

The rule is part of the proceeding Ex Parte\ 724.

This action by the Board is just the latest in a string of actions aimed at addressing long-standing issues between shippers and the railroads. Last week, the STB said it is welcoming informal discussions with stakeholders over the Board’s proposed rule regarding final offer rate review, and last month it issued decisions on demurrage and accessorial charges.