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NGFA recommends improvements for measuring rail service data

Recommendations to Surface Transportation Board focused on requirements for first-mile, last-mile rail service data.

The National Grain & Feed Association (NGFA) outlined several recommendations to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) as it considers requirements for first-mile, last-mile rail service data.

First-mile, last-mile (FMLM) service refers to the movement of railcars between a local railroad serving yard and a shipper or receiver facility. NGFA has encouraged STB to require railroads to report FMLM data, which currently is not readily shared with STB or rail customers.

The STB in September published a request for comments from the shipping community, carriers and the public concerning FMLM issues and recommendations as to specific additional data important to identify service concerns.

“The NGFA commends the Board for seeking comments on metrics to measure rail service and believes FMLM reporting will lead to better rail performance,” NGFA noted in comments submitted Dec. 17. “The absence of FMLM data from the current rail service reporting metrics significantly reduces the data’s usefulness to shipping and receiving operations.”

FMLM metrics have the potential “to significantly increase railroad service performance and efficiency, which will benefit rail carriers, rail customers, the nation’s economy, and society at-large,” NGFA stated, adding that these benefits would “far exceed any burden to the railroads in providing such information.”

Currently, inadequate FMLM rail service can result in rail customer facilities having to shut down, slow down, reformulate products, or incur higher freight and accessorial charge costs, which unfortunately happens too often, NGFA noted.

“Unpredictable and unreliable FMLM rail service also causes rail customers to incur the costs of ordering extra trains from railroads or buying or leasing additional railcars,” NGFA said. “The addition of more trains and railcars to the rail system in turn, adversely affects the efficiency of the rail system as a whole.”

NGFA recommended weekly reporting of metrics to provide timely and useful service information. The comments submitted to STB outline specific service metrics the NGFA believes would be the most useful additions to assist in resolving FMLM issues.

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