Author: Dr. William Huneke

STB “Whack a Mole”

When I was working at the Surface Transportation Board, I often felt trapped in a game of “Whack a Mole.” That was because STB rarely had time or staff to do more than react to the latest rate case, stakeholder petition or Congressional request. There is a sense of Whack a Mole in some of the flurry of STB regulatory reform proposals, particularly STB’s tinkering with the industry Cost of Capital calculation.

Convenience Fees, Profit Centers and Fuel Surcharges

Recently, I purchased movie tickets on line. As I was checking out, I noticed I was getting charged a “convenience fee,” which for me begged the question: Just whose convenience? After all I was saving the theater the cost of printing the tickets and their employees’ time selling me the ticket. In my mind this convenience fee was really a profit center for the theater.

URCS: Love It or Hate it, We’re Stuck With It

For a sleep inducer, consider working with the Uniform Rail Costing System (URCS), long a general costing system indispensable for determining maximum reasonable rail rates. Worse, its second side-effect is indigestion, as this 30-year-old accounting relic is much like a classic car lacking modern GPS and satellite radio. Practitioners too often become frustrated with its built-in averages from a time when railroads, rather than shippers, owned most of the freight car fleet and line hauls were shorter as the modern merger movement had not yet run its course.