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Senator Baldwin Successfully Leads Charge to Improve Rail Service Reliability, Lower Costs for Businesses and Consumers

Surface Transportation Board takes overdue steps to improve service for Made in Wisconsin businesses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) expressed support for the Surface Transportation Board’s (STB) finalized rule that will begin to address unreliable rail service and the high costs of rail shipping for American businesses by increasing transparency and competition in the freight rail industry. For nearly a decade, Senator Baldwin has pushed the STB to increase competition among Class I railroads to improve service and bring down costs for Wisconsin businesses.

“Wisconsin businesses rely on rail service to get their goods to market efficiently, keeping products on shelves and costs down for consumers. For too long, unreliable service has hurt our Made in Wisconsin businesses by allowing rail carriers to lock out competition despite poor service,” said Senator Baldwin. “While there’s more work to do, this unanimous decision takes an important step forward toward ensuring Wisconsin’s farmers, manufacturers, energy producers, and other shippers, and their customers, receive better, more reliable service.”

Last year, Senator Baldwin led a bipartisan letter with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) in support of the STB’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on Reciprocal Switching for Inadequate Service, a long-requested rule aimed at increasing competition in the freight rail industry to improve service and bring down costs. 

This week, the STB announced the finalized rule on reciprocal switching. While the finalized rule is narrower than some hoped, the new rule will for the first time allow certain shippers and receivers to petition the board when they receive inadequate rail service. Additionally, the rule improves data collection on service metrics from the rail carriers, increasing transparency surrounding where rail carriers’ service is falling short for shippers.

Senator Baldwin has long pushed to allow greater access to reciprocal switching to increase competition. Last year, she introduced the Reliable Rail Service Act with widespread support; bipartisan legislation to ensure the largest freight railroads meet their obligations of providing reliable service to American businesses.

The lack of reliable rail service disrupts operations for Wisconsin farmers, loggers, energy producers, and manufacturers, leading to higher prices and the potential for increased costs passed on to consumers. Billions of dollars of commerce rely on rail service every year, with freight rail accounting for roughly a third of U.S. exports by volume and 28 percent of freight movement. In Wisconsin, the freight rail network moves approximately 32 percent of Wisconsin’s freight by tonnage.