Freight Railroads: Updated Information on Rates and Competition Issues

GAO-07-1245T Published: Sep 25, 2007. Publicly Released: Sep 25, 2007.
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The Staggers Rail Act of 1980 largely deregulated the freight railroad industry, giving the railroads freedom to price their services according to market conditions and encouraging greater reliance on competition to set rates. The act recognized the need for railroads to recover costs by setting higher rates for shippers with fewer transportation alternatives. The act also recognized that some shippers might not have access to competitive alternatives and might be subject to unreasonably high rates. It established a threshold for rate relief and granted the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Surface Transportation Board (STB) the authority to develop a rate relief process for those "captive" shippers. GAO's reported on rates, competition, and other industry trends in reports issued in October 2006 and August 2007. This statement is based on those reports and discusses (1) the changes that have occurred in the railroad industry since the enactment of the Staggers Rail Act, including changes in rail rates since 1985, (2) the extent of captivity in the industry and STB's efforts to protect captive shippers, and (3) STB's actions to address GAO's recent recommendations.

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