Hoeven: Rail Shipments Need to Get Back on Track Before Fall Harvest

Senator Meets with STB Vice Chairman, Continues Working to Resolve Rail Service Disruptions

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven this week outlined to Surface Transportation Board (STB) Vice Chairman Robert Primus the need to get rail shipments back to a current basis before the fall harvest, in order to reduce impacts on agriculture producers and other shippers. In particular, the senator discussed the hiring and labor challenges that railroads are currently facing and stressed the need for them to meet current projections for restoring reliable rail service.

The meeting comes as part of Hoeven’s ongoing efforts with the STB and the railroads to address ongoing rail service disruptions in North Dakota and across the nation. To this end, the senator also pressed the matter with STB Member Patrick Fuchs and BNSF CEO Katie Farmer last month. 

“We need rail shipments to get back to a current basis, not only for agriculture producers, but for our other shippers as well,” said Hoeven. “That’s exactly what we’re working with the STB and the railroads to accomplish. The key bottleneck right now is hiring and training more people, and we continue pressing to make sure these issues are resolved before the fall harvest.”

Following Hoeven’s efforts with Senator Kevin Cramer earlier this year, the STB placed public accountability requirements on BNSF and other Class I railroads, which include:

  • Weekly reports containing data on rail service performance.
  • 6-month targets for key performance indicators, including grain-car backlogs and railroad velocity.
  • 6-month and 12-month workforce hiring targets.
  • 36 months of historical data for comparison.

Hoeven continues pressing the STB to monitor the situation closely to determine if additional acute prioritization action is required. The senator also reviewed the steps BNSF is taking to restore reliable rail service in North Dakota. These include hiring 3,000 new employees, offering hiring incentives, adding 350 new locomotives, increasing rail shuttle turns and utilizing the BNSF Dakota Region Ombudsman to improve communication with shippers.

In addition, Hoeven sponsored the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, bipartisan legislation recently signed into law that will update federal regulations for the global shipping industry and help American producers export their products internationally. As one of the four lead sponsors of the bipartisan legislation, Hoeven, along with Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John Thune (R-S.D.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), advanced the bill through the Senate in March, followed by the House of Representatives passing the bill last month.