Here are some of the stories featured recently in transportation journals:
• “Shippers say a lack of competition has led to price-gauging by the railroads, while the railroads threaten to withhold investment if the government intervenes”
• “Archer Daniels Midland sues KC Southern, other railroads”
• “Small town ag shippers take aim at rail captivity”
• “Trucking industry offers fuel saving strategy”
After reading the first three articles, one is left with the conviction that railroads have a “Hooray for me, to heck with you” attitude, and that it doesn’t seem to matter to railroad officials whose toes are being stepped on, the “Small town ag shippers” or the giant ag product processing company, “Archer Daniels Midland”.
The aggrieved are complaining that the four largest railroads have divided the country into four regions, creating monopolies that enable them to charge their customers exorbitant rates. Further, the executive director of Customers United for Rail Equity (CURE), has said that a lot of anti-competitive behavior exists among railroads, and that the Surface Transportation Board (STB) allows railroads to block customers’ access to competing railroads. As a result, agricultural shippers in rural areas feel they have become “captives” of the railroad that serves their particular area and that the federal agency charged to protect them from rail rate abuse, the STB, is inept.
To justify the “rail rate abuse”, a key railroad official stated to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, “If we are to continue to prudently invest in the capacity that our customers want and our nation needs, we need some assurance that we can earn revenues that can justify making these investments.”
Sounds like more “economies of scale” double-talk, doesn’t it? Those “investments” that official is talking about won’t be funded by his stockholders. That money will only come from over-charged customers …or else. And have you noticed that rarely does anyone criticize the railroads?
The trucking industry on the other hand, the whipping boy, is vilified unceasingly. Unlike the arrogance shown by the railroads, the American Trucking Association, the whipping boy, introduced a plan to address spiraling fuel costs and environmental concerns about global warming. The trade group said its initiative could reduce fuel consumption by 86 billion gallons and carbon dioxide emissions by 900 million tons for all types of vehicles during the next decade.
[“… all types of vehicles …” includes the vehicles you drive and the ones we drive, and that’s a much more neighborly outlook than the railroad’s “hooray for me and to heck with you” attitude.]