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.

STB May Reach Full Strength in 2020

Two vacant seats on the five-member Surface Transportation Board (STB) could be filled by early 2020, as a Democrat—to be paired with an already nominated Republican—has emerged as a likely nominee.

Shippers’ Lot Is Not a Happy One

By age 10, two lessons should be learned—no ketchup on hot dogs, and government does not move at the speed of for-profit business.

Wall Street Darlings or Revenue Inadequate?

RAILWAY AGE, WATCHING WASHINGTON, SEPTEMBER 2019 – Although a purchase is said to be worth precisely what a buyer agrees to pay, not all buyers possess equivalent market power as sellers. United Parcel Service (UPS), for example, may choose between truck and rail. But where freight cannot efficiently move by truck, shippers wishing to remain in business typically pay higher freight rates than if they had effective alternatives to rail.

STB Takes “Bye” on Fuel Surcharge Case

Imagine Surface Transportation Board (STB) members Ann D. Begeman, Patrick J. Fuchs and Martin J. Oberman dining family-style, where one entree is shared. Ann wants fish, Marty chicken, and Patrick says he wants neither and wishes to leave. Unable to agree on an order, the three depart the restaurant.

STB Moves to Rehab Antique URCS

If you think a currently under way Surface Transportation Board (STB) search for outside experts to rehabilitate and modernize the 30-year-old Uniform Rail Costing System (URCS) is not of significant importance to railroads and their customers, then think again, and stay focused.

So, What Do Rail Shippers Really Want?

Periodically, pundits who are not active participants in Surface Transportation Board (STB) proceedings offer for publication in a variety of newspapers—presumably aimed at members of Congress and other public policy opinion leaders—guest opinion columns containing warnings of dire results should railroads be “re-regulated.”

Does STB Deserve Court Deference?

WATCHING WASHINGTON, AUGUST 2019: The Surface Transportation Board (STB) and other independent regulatory agencies operate as a fourth branch of government, exercising quasi-judicial and quasi-legislative powers.

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.

Railroads, Like the Economy, Need Greater Certainty

Editor’s Note: RealClear Markets published this editorial by AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies on Aug. 1. With mixed economic signals coming from Washington D.C., Jefferies argues that federal lawmakers must do their part to provide certainty.

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