Hoeven Presses Railroads at STB Hearing for Investment in Rail Infrastructure, Better Service, More Transparency

FARGO, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today told members of the Surface Transportation Board (STB) at a hearing in Fargo that both Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF) and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company (CP) need to add resources to meet the growing demand for shipping in North Dakota. The STB is charged with resolving railroad rate and service disputes.

“The bottom line is that we need greater rail capacity to meet the growing needs of North Dakota’s expanding economy and dynamic businesses and farms,” said Hoeven. “To make that happen, railroads must commit to investing in more rail infrastructure, including more locomotives, more railcars and more crews. BNSF has made substantial commitments to increasing infrastructure and personnel, but now Canadian Pacific needs to make the same kind of commitment. CP also needs to implement a more transparent way of reserving cars and tracking orders so that it is fair to our shippers. The investments and changes we are calling for are not only in the interest of North Dakota, but also in the interest of the railroads themselves.”

Hoeven was in Fargo to help farmers, elevator operators and others impacted by backlogged rail shipments make their case to the STB and to hear rail industry executives disclose their plans to resolve the shipping delays.

The senator has been working since early in the year to address delays in rail shipping, first by urging BNSF to ensure timely delivery of fertilizer and other products needed for spring planting. In February, he brought BNSF Chairman Matt Rose and commodity groups together in his office to work through a plan to reduce rail shipment delays. Rose committed at the time to invest $5 billion in new resources this year, including approximately $600 million in the Northern Corridor.

Further, this spring, when farmers were short of fertilizer, Hoeven called on BNSF to address the problem in a timely manner. The railroad subsequently dedicated unit trains to carry only fertilizer so that it got to farmers more expeditiously for spring planting.

Hoeven also met in July with STB Chairman Daniel R. Elliott in July to stress shippers’ concerns about backlogs on agriculture rail shipments and, in a separate meeting, asked Rose to dedicate additional resources in the short-term to help resolve the delays. Rose committed to spot 450 cars per day and offered more shuttles this fall than in 2013 to relieve past due agriculture shipments. As of the end of last week, BNSF had approximately 1,016 rail cars past due in North Dakota, down from 2,400 at the end of July. CP, however, reported it had more than 7,500 open requests in the state.

To press the railroads further, last month, Hoeven arranged roundtable meetings in North Dakota with Rose and Canadian Pacific CEO and Director E. Hunter Harrison so that rail industry executives could hear firsthand from agricultural producers and commodity groups about the hardship that delayed shipments are having on their operations. During those meetings, Hoeven continued to emphasize the importance of addressing the backlog prior to the fall harvest, which will significantly increase the demands on the already overburdened rail system.