Citing ongoing CSX Transportation service disruptions, Democratic leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee called on Wednesday for Surface Transportation Board (STB) vacancies to be filled immediately.
Congress expanded STB board membership from three to five members under the Surface Board Transportation Act of 2015. There are currently two sitting members and no pending nominations.
In a letter to the president, U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), the ranking member of the committee, and Michael Capuano (D-MA), the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, called for the president to send STB board nominees before the Senate.
“While vacancies in the board’s membership does not impair the right of the remaining members to exercise all of the powers of the board, these three vacancies affect the board’s ability to function at the capacity Congress intended,” the letter stated. “As an independent adjudicatory and regulatory agency, the STB has been a critical mediator in resolving railroad rates, service issues and rail restructuring transactions. The agency also has the authority to conduct investigations of rail service matters that escalate to regional or national significance, such as the recent disruptions to CSX Transportation, Inc.’s, service.”
The lawmakers acknowledged that shippers have experienced “drastic disruptions” in the service and operations of CSX Transportation’s rail system over the last year. More than 2,000 employee layoffs and eigh hump yard closures were cited as contributing factors. And reports of “significant service changes” that disrupt business operations continue to filter in.
“CSX is the third largest Class I railroad in North America and its rail network connects to nearly 240 short line and regional railroads,” the letter stated. “With CSX serving 23 eastern states, the District of Columbia, and two Canadian Provinces, its ability to provide reliable and consistent rail service is vital to the economic health of our country.”
The lawmakers concluded that STB should be working in its full capacity to address CSX service issues and called on the president to “promptly appoint qualified individuals” to fill vacancies.