The Surface Transportation Board is under pressure from the USDA to improve/implement “rail shipper-friendly” policies, to benefit agricultural commodity shippers. Reciprocal switching, as well as the collection of first-and-last mile (FMLM) data, are two of the requirements mentioned in a concurrent March 24th letter from the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA).
Origin and destination terminals are notorious for causing major delays. Supporters of the USDA position assert that the railroads are prioritizing operating ratios and profitability over rail service for agricultural shippers. They argue shippers are met with FMLM service delays, resulting in an inability to source grain, and a shortage of grain feed for livestock.
According to the USDA, transparency at FMLM would mean transparency for the overall supply chain, and would help commodity shippers understand where there might be delays due to inadequate labor deployments, or other logistical issues. The USDA also backs reciprocal switching, which they say is a reasonable response to Precision Scheduled Railroading.
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