STB Extends Employment-Data Reporting for ‘Big Four’

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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The Surface Transportation Board (STB) on Jan. 31 extended its temporary employment-data reporting period for the “Big Four” Class I railroads—BNSF, CSX, Norfolk Southern (NS) and Union Pacific (UP)—to Dec. 31, 2024, but did not extend service-data reporting.

On April 26-27, 2022, the STB held a public hearing on what it called “the significant performance deterioration of the freight rail industry.” In response to “the extensive problems described at the hearing,” STB on May 6, 2022, issued an order requiring all Class I’s to submit several specific reports on rail service, performance and employment. The “Big Four” were also required to submit service recovery plans, progress reports, and historical data, and participate in biweekly conference calls with the STB staff.

“This year, railroads expect to see increased traffic, partially resulting from improved economic conditions,” and BNSF, CSX, NS and UP “have stated their commitment to growing traffic on their networks,” the STB reported. While the “Big Four” have “increased overall workforce levels since May 2022 and have met most of what they set as interim labor force targets,” their employment levels are still approximately 14,000 below pre-pandemic levels and have been essentially flat for the past six months, according to the STB, which noted that “[e]mployment levels and crew shortages were often cited in the April 2022 hearing as a reason for poor service.” 

STB said that its Jan. 31 decision (download below) extends the monthly reporting of employment data “[t]o help determine the durability of service recovery efforts.” It directed the “Big Four” to provide detailed information regarding hiring and retention plans and an additional update containing labor force targets. BNSF, NS and UP must also continue submitting data about trainees in their monthly employment data.

“Because service performance data from recent weeks show that service has improved since April 2022, the Board does not see the need at this time to extend the service data reporting,” it said.

STB in May 2023 exempted CSX from submitting biweekly service progress reports and trainee information in monthly employment data figures, noting that the railroad had been “meeting most of its targets for service improvement on a consistent basis.”

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