Summary: S.1946 — 96th Congress (1979-1980)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Conference report filed in House (09/29/1980)

(Conference report filed in House, H. Rept. 96-1430)

Staggers Rail Act of 1980 - Declares that the goals of this Act are: (1) to assist in rehabilitating the Nation's rail system to meet the demands of interstate commerce and national defense; (2) to reform Federal regulatory policy so as to preserve a safe and efficient rail system; (3) to assist the rail system to remain viable in the private sector of the economy; (4) to provide a regulatory process that balances the needs of carriers, shippers, and the public; and (5) to assist in the rehabilitation and financing of the rail system.

=Title I: Rail Transportation Policy= - Amends the Interstate Commerce Act to set forth the policy of the United States in regulating the railroad industry, including: (1) establishment of reasonable rates through competition and demand for services; (2) minimum use of Federal regulatory control; (3) promotion of a safe and efficient rail transportation system by allowing rail carriers to earn adequate revenues; (4) to provide rate regulation where there is an absence of effective competition; and (5) to encourage energy conservation.

=Title II: Railroad Rates and Inter-Carrier Practices= - Authorizes a rail carrier providing transportation subject to the jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Commission under such Act to establish any rate for transportation or other service provided by such carrier. Directs that such rate must be reasonable if the carrier has market dominance over the transportation to which a particular rate applies. Sets forth procedures to be used in determining whether such rate is reasonable.

Prohibits such rates from being established below a reasonable minimum. Grants the Commission the authority to order such rates to be raised to the required minimum level. Directs that variable costs shall be determined under formulae or procedures prescribed or certified by the Commission.

Sets forth standards and procedures to be used in determining whether a carrier has market dominance.

Directs the Commission, within 180 days after the effective date of this Act and annually thereafter, to determine the cost recovery percentage for the transportation of all traffic received by rail carriers and to report such determination to Congress.

Directs that the base rate for a commodity, for which a base rate does not exist on October 1, 1980, shall be established by the carrier. Authorizes the Commission to establish such rate if the carrier's rate is found to be unreasonable.

Directs the Commission, to publish at least quarterly, a rail cost adjustment factor.

Authorizes a carrier to increase any rate over which the Commission has jurisdiction so long as such rate is not greater than the adjusted base rate for the transportation involved, plus any rate increases implemented under this Act. Prohibits such rate increases from being found to exceed a reasonable maximum for the transportation involved.

Authorizes a carrier, within specified time periods, to increase annually any rate by an additional six percent of the adjusted base rate. Prohibits the total increases during the four-year period after enactment from resulting in a rate that is more than 118 percent of the adjusted base rate.

Sets forth limits on carrying forward such rate increases. Authorizes a carrier, beginning on October 1, 1984, to increase rates by an annual amount of four percent of the adjusted base rate.

Directs the Commission, after a hearing on the record, to prescribe such rules regarding joint rates as are necessary to insure that carriers that earn adequate revenues do not receive the rate increases authorized by this Act, except under specified circumstances.

Prohibits the Commission from: (1) suspending such rate increase pending final Commission action; and (2) beginning an investigation of the reasonableness of such increase (but permits interested parties from filing complaints).

Authorizes the Commission, under specified circumstances to investigate proposed rate increases. Sets forth factors to be considered by the Commission in determining whether or not to begin an investigation.

Specifies that the authority of the Commission to prescribe rules, classifications, and practices may not be used to limit the rates that carriers are otherwise authorized to establish under this Act.

Limits rate increases on a specified coal transportation line to San Antonio, Texas.

Directs all carriers to reduce rates for the transportation of recyclable or recycled materials, other than iron or steel.

Directs the Commission, within 230 days of the effective date of this Act, to determine whether product competition should be considered in proceedings to determine the reasonableness of rail carrier rates. Defines "product competition" for the purposes of this Act. Makes special provisions for determining the availability of alternative sources of coal.

Directs the Commission, within 180 days of the effective date of this Act and thereafter as necessary, to establish standards for determining what constitutes adequate revenues for rail carriers. Directs the Commission, within 180 days of effective date of this Act and annually thereafter to determine which rail carriers are earning adequate revenues.

Sets forth standards by which the Commission may prescribe inflation-based rate increases.

Reduces from seven to five months the time allotted to the Commission to complete a proceeding and make a final decision concerning proposals for a rate, classification, rule, or practice. Prohibits the Commission from suspending such proposals during such proceeding except under specified circumstances. Alters the time period during which the Commission shall require a rail carrier to account for all amounts received under such proposed rate increase.

Authorizes one or more rail carriers to enter into a contract with one or more purchasers of rail services to provide specified services under specified rates and conditions. Directs such contract to be filed with the Commission. Sets forth procedures by which: (1) the Commission shall review and approve such contract; and (2) a complaint may be filed by a shipper or port. Sets forth additional grounds for complaints concerning transportation of agricultural commodities.

Specifies time periods when approval of a contract shall be effective.

Specifies that the exclusive remedy for breach of a contract entered into under this Act shall be by action in the appropriate State court or U.S. district court, unless otherwise agreed upon by the parties.

Allows a carrier, under specified conditions, to enter into contracts for the transportation of agricultural commodities (including forest products and paper).

Directs the Commission to establish a railroad contract rate advisory service. Sets forth the duties of such service.

Repeals demand-sensitive rates for carriers.

Repeals provisions of such Act concerning incentives for capital investment by rail carriers. Permits a rail carrier to establish, by written declaration or agreement, limited liability rates for the transportation of amounts to be deducted from any claim against the carrier.

Specifies that the liability of a carrier shall not exceed the value of the physical loss of or damage to the property transported. Relieves a carrier of liability for losses caused by the negligence of a shipper, owner, or consignee. Sets forth procedures for civil actions brought against carriers.

States that differences between rates, classifications, rules, and practices of rail carriers providing transportation subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission do not constitute a violation of this Act if such differences result from different services provided by rail carriers. Exempts specified surcharges, contracts, rates, and expenses.

Directs the Commission to exempt a person, class of persons, or a transaction or service related to rail carrier transportation from certain existing provisions of law governing rail rates and practices under specified circumstances. Sets forth procedures for the establishment and revocation of such exemptions. Prohibits the Commission from authorizing intermodal ownership that is otherwise prohibited by this Act.

Authorizes a State authority to exercise jurisdiction over intrastate transportation provided by a rail carrier subject to this Act if such State authority does so exclusively in accordance with specified provisions of this Act. Sets forth timetables and procedures for Commission review of a State authority's standards and procedures. Directs that certification of a State authority shall be valid for five years.

Allows a carrier to petition the Commission to review the decision of a State authority.

Grants exclusive jurisdiction over transportation by rail carriers to the Commission and State authorities.

Declares that business solicitation or entertainment expenses incurred by a rail carrier providing transportation subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission shall not constitute a violation of certain prohibitions against rate discrimination if such expenses would not be unlawful if incurred by a person or corporation not subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission. Excludes such solicitation or entertainment expenses from cost of service or rate base determinations made for rate regulation purposes. Directs the Commission to issue rules establishing standard and guidelines for authorized business solicitation and entertainment expenses.

Specifies waiting periods for rail carriers and other carriers before proposed rate changes become effective.

Authorizes a rail carrier to publish and apply unilaterally a surcharge which increases or decreases a joint rate. Specifies that such surcharge must be applied in equal dollar amounts to specified routes.

Permits such carrier to cancel by tariff the application of a surcharge to any route if such carrier demonstrates that, under specified rates, the surcharging carrier's revenue for its participation over such route are less than 110 percent of its variable costs.

Directs that any such reduction shall be borne solely by the carrier reducing the charge.

Authorizes the Commission to cancel the application of a surcharge under specified conditions.

Prohibits a carrier from applying a surcharge: (1) unless it has participated in all increases in specified rates for one year prior to such surcharge; and (2) more than once each calendar year.

Directs the Commission, within 120 days of the effective date of this Act, to define the term "reasonably expected costs'" as used therein.

Prohibits a carrier from applying a surcharge that results in a shipper being required to bear more than a reasonable proportion of the reasonably expected costs of continuing to operate the line in question. Specifies remedies which the Commission may direct if a surcharge is too high.

Sets forth procedures for cancellation of joint rates and for participation in through routes by Class III rail carriers.

Directs the Commission: (1) to include specified information concerning surcharges in its annual report to Congress; and (2) within two years of the effective date of this Act, to report to Congress on whether the provisions of this Act have adequately addressed the joint rate problems of carriers.

Directs the Commission to complete evidentiary proceedings to adjust the division of joint rates within nine months after a complaint is filed or after the commencement of a proceeding on the initiative of the Commission. Directs that final action must be taken by the 180th day after completion of the evidentiary proceedings, except under specified circumstances. Exempts proceedings involving class III rail carriers from such time limitations.

Prohibits, generally, an organization established or continued under a rate agreement (a "rate bureau") from permitting a carrier: (1) to discuss rates; (2) to participate in agreements related to rates; or (3) to vote on single line rates proposed by another carrier.

Directs that, in a proceeding in which it is alleged that a carrier was a party to an agreement, conspiracy, or combination in violation of Federal or State law, proof of an agreement, conspiracy, or combination may not be inferred from evidence that two or more carriers acted together as regards an interline rate or related matter. Directs that the court shall determine whether specified evidentiary requirements have been met.

Directs the rate bureau involved to keep transcripts or sound recordings of all meetings and requires that records of votes be made. Directs that such records and transcripts or recordings be submitted to the Commission and made available to other Federal agencies as needed. Exempts from the antitrust laws agreements between rail carriers which solely provide for the compilation, publication, and distribution of rates in effect or which are to become effective.

Prohibits the Commission from taking any action as regards the elimination of general rate increases or decreases prior to April 1, 1982.

Directs the Commission to require rail carrier members of a rate bureau to provide certain employees of such bureau with fair employment arrangements no less protective of the interest of such employees than those established by the Interstate Commerce Act.

Prohibits a carrier of grains, soybeans, rice, or cotton from charging or receiving more compensation for the transportation of property or passengers: (1) for a shorter distance than for a longer distance over the same line in the same direction; or (2) under a through rate than under the total of the intermediate rates it may charge, when the Commission determines that there is actual or potential competition between a rail and water service or route and anticompetitive behavior must be averted.

Prohibits a rail carrier from blocking the construction or extension of a rail line by another carrier by refusing to permit that carrier to cross it property if: (1) the construction does not unreasonably interfere with the operation of the crossed line; (2) the operation does not materially interfere with the operation of the crossed line; and (3) the owner of the crossing line compensates the owner of the crossed line. Authorizes either party to a disputed matter to submit such matter to the Commission for determination.

Directs the Commission to require a rail carrier proposing to construct and operate such a railroad line to provide affected employees with fair employment arrangements no less protective of the interests of such employees than those established by such Act.

Authorizes the Commission to require rail carriers to enter into reciprocal switching agreements where if finds such agreements to be practicable and in the public interest. Directs the Commission to establish conditions and compensation applicable to such agreements if the carriers are unable to agree.

Repeals the provision granting payments for the emergency use of freight cars. Requires shippers to apply to the Commission for approval of any agreement that relates to the amount of compensation such shippers propose to charge carriers for the use of rolling stock owned or leased by such shippers.

Permits carriers to establish tariffs containing premium charges for special services or special levels of services not provided in any tariff otherwise applicable to the movement.

Limits to 30 days the time during which the Commission is authorized to take action due to an emergency (equipment shortage, traffic congestion, etc.) in order to promote service in the interst of the public and of commerce.

Directs that, in authorizing any abandonment of a railroad line, a court shall require the rail carrier involved to provide employee protection at lease as protective as that established under such Act.

Sets forth procedures by which the Commission shall approve applications for consolidation, merger, and acquisition of control of and by rail carriers.

Directs that any rate in effect on the effective date of this Act may be challenged by complaint to the Commission within 180 days of such date. Specifies requirements for such challenges. Directs that the burden of proof shall be on the complainant.

=Title III: Railroad Cost Determinations= - Authorizes the Commission to prescribe a uniform accounting system for classes of carriers providing, and brokers for, transportation subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission.

Establishes a Railroad Accounting Principles Board which shall be within and responsible to the legislative branch of the Federal Government. Sets forth: (1) the terms of office; (2) membership; (3) duties; and (4) expiration date of such Board. Directs the Commission to promulgate rules to enforce cost accounting standards established by the Board. Sets forth procedures for Commission certification of accounting system used by rail carriers.

Directs the Board to submit a report concerning the integration of such accounting principles to Congress within two years of the date of enactment of this Act.

Authorizes appropriations for fiscal years 1981, 1982, and 1983, for implementation of such accounting system.

Specifies penalties for violation of such cost accounting standards.

=Title IV: Railroad Modernization Assistance= - Directs the Commission, under specified circumstances, to require an abandoning carrier to sell its property at a price not less than the constitutional minimum value. Sets forth criteria under which such sales may occur. Establishes procedures for filing applications for and protests of such sales. Directs the Commission to require, to the maximum extent practicable, the use of the employees who would normally have performed work in connection with a railroad line subject to a sale under this Act.

Sets forth procedures for Commission approval of a certificate of abandonment or discontinuance of a line by a carrier. Places the burden of proving that the public convenience and necessity requires or permits such abandonment on the person applying for the certificate. Directs the Commission to consider whether any detriment from the abandonment or discontinuance exceeds the transportation benefit from the plan or proposal as a whole.

Directs a carrier which has filed an application for a certificate to provide to interested parties and to the Commission: (1) an estimate of the annual subsidy and minimum purchase price required to keep the line or a portion thereof in operation; (2) its most recent reports on the physical condition of the relevant parts of the line; (3) traffic, revenue, and other data necessary to determine the amount of annual subsidy necessary to continue operations; and (4) any other information that the Commission may deem necessary to allow a potential offeror to calculate an adequate subsidy or purchase offer.

Sets forth procedures for Commission approval of the purchase or subsidization of a line.

Amends the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 to authorize appropriations for fiscal years 1981, 1982, and 1983, for conversion of abandoned railroad rights-of-way for use as bicycle paths, jogging and hiking trails, and related transportation, recreation, and conservation uses. Limits the Federal share of such projects to 80 percent.

Extends to September 30, 1082, the authority for redeemable preference share financing.

Increases the authorization of appropriations for rehabilitation and improvement of rail facilities, including the utilization of computerized car management systems. Prohibits more than 20 percent of such funds from being used by qualified employee or shipper groups for the purchase and/or rehabilitation of rail lines or facilities. Directs the Secretary of Transportation, in considering the allocation of available funds, to consider the availability of viable alternatives to such employee-shipper ownership or rehabilitation.

Sets forth procedures for the purchase of Consolidated Rail Corporation (ConRail) stock by the United States Railway Association to provide for a reduction in ConRail's work force.

Permits financial assistance made under this Act to be used to purchase, for purposes of rail banking, certain properties of the Milwaukee Railroad located in the State of Montana.

Amends the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973 to make loan guarantees available for: (1) electrification of high density mainlines; and (2) capital improvements for specified coal export facilities. Increases the amount authorized to be loaned to a railroad in the region receiving assistance under such Act.

Directs the Secretary to report annually to Congress on the specific Federal assistance provided to the railroad industry during such fiscal year.

=Title V: ConRail Title V Labor Protection= - Amends the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973 to grant to protected employees a monthly displacement allowance for any calendar month within the period identified in such Act in which the employee is deprived of employment or is adversely affected with respect to compensation. Sets forth provisions for payment of such allowance.

Specifies the duration of the monthly displacement allowance. Sets forth provisions for training and transfer of employees, including employees in the marine crafts and employees of Penn Truck Lines, Incorporated. Prohibits a protected employee of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) from being required to transfer to a location outside the seniority district of such employee.

Permits ConRail to offer a vacant position to not more than four protected non-contract employees. Directs ConRail to give such position to the protected employee accepting transfer whom ConRail considers to be best qualified for the particular position involved.

Directs ConRail, the Association, replacement operators, and acquiring railroads, as the case may be, to pay the allowances, expenses, and cost provided protected employees under such Act. Directs the Railroad Retirement Board to reimburse ConRail, the Association, replacement operators, and acquiring railroads for such allowances, expenses, and costs up to an aggregate sum of $485,000,000. Limits the aggregate amount of reimbursements for monthly displacement allowances to $180,000,000.

Authorizes an annual appropriation of up to $485,000,000. Directs ConRail, the Association, replacement operators, and acquiring railroads to pay benefits otherwise reimbursable upon the exhaustion of such authorization.

Authorizes appropriations for administrative expenses incurred by the Board and the Association.

Directs the Association to: (1) audit the payment of benefits under such Act; and (2) report annually to Congress and the President.

Directs that protected or furloughed ConRail employees shall have the first right of hire by any other rail carrier that is subject to regulation by the Commission for any vacancy that is not covered by: (1) an affirmative action plan; or (2) a permissible voluntary affirmative action plan.

Restates Congressional intent concerning ConRail's right to a single collective bargaining agreement negotiated systemwide.

Sets forth technical amendments to the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973 and the Rail Passenger Service Act.

=Title VI: Expedited Supplemental Transaction Proposals= - Directs the Secretary, within 240 days of the effective date of this Act and after comments from interested parties, including the States of Connecticut and Rhode Island, to determine whether to initiate a proposal for the transfer of all ConRail properties in Connecticut and Rhode Island to another railroad in the region. Sets forth the criteria to be used in developing such proposal.

Eliminates the requirement that a supplemental transaction occur within six years after the date on which the Special Court orders conveyances of rail property to ConRail.

=Title VII: Miscellaneous Provisions= - Amends the Rock Island Railroad Transition and Employee Assistance Act to assign to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit specified lower court decisions concerning railroad bankruptcy and restructuring.

Prescribes methods by which the Rock Island Railroad and labor organizations representing the employees of such railroad may enter into an agreement on labor protection for employees adversely affected as a result of a reduction in service by such railroad within five (formerly ten) days of the date of enactment of this Act. Directs the parties, if they are unable to enter into an employee protection agreement within such period, to immediately submit the matter to the Commission. Requires that within 15 (formerly 30) days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Commission shall impose upon the parties an arrangement with respect to employee protection, unless the Rock Island Railroad and the authorized representatives of its employees have entered into a labor protection agreement.

Directs the court having jurisdiction over the organization of the Rock Island Railroad to direct the Railroad's trustee and the labor organizations representing the employees of the Railroad to implement any employee protection arrangement imposed by the Commission.

Provides that any order of the Commission or of any such reorganization court entered pursuant to such an agreement may be appealed only to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Requires that such appeals shall be filed within five days after entry of the Commission's order and that the court shall finally determine any such appeal within 60 days after it is filed.

Requires that employee benefit or allowance claims under such agreements be filed with the Railroad Retirement Board. Directs the Board to determine the amount for which an employee is eligible and to certify such amount to the Rock Island Railroad for payment. Directs that such benefits shall be paid by the Rock Island Railroad from its own assets and treated as administrative expenses of the Rock Island Railroad.

Amends the Railroad Retirement Act of 1974 to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make specified records available to the Board.

Amends the Milwaukee Railroad Restructuring Act to declare that all obligations to the United States incurred pursuant to such Act by the Milwaukee Railroad or the trustee of its property shall be waived and cancelled when: (1) the Milwaukee Railroad is reorganized as an operating rail carrier; or (2) substantially all of the Milwaukee Railroad is purchased.

Authorizes appropriations for transaction assistance for the Milwaukee Railroad.

Amends the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 to increase the authorization of appropriations for rehabilitation and improvement financing.

Directs the Secretary of Transportation, within 45 days of the date of enactment of this Act, to take final action on applications for loan guarantees to be used in connection with joint ownership, construction, or rehabilitation of any facilities for a second carrier to serve the Powder River Coal Region in Montana and Wyoming.

Directs the Secretary to review the proposed Chicago and North Western connector line route but prohibits approval of any route that requires the use of agricultural land except under specified circumstances. Directs the Secretary to review the use of any agricultural land as a route for newly constructed line and to require that such railroad provide a private grade crossing for each land owner under specified conditions.

Specifies time limits for the application and approval of such grade crossings. Directs the Secretary to require the land owner and the railroad to enter into agreements limiting the railroad's liability at such crossings. Sets forth procedures for judicial review of actions of the Secretary pursuant to this Act.

Directs the Association and ConRail, by April 1, 1981, to each submit a report to Congress analyzing the impact, on ConRail, rail service, employees, the economy of the region, and other rail carriers, of: (1) no further Federal funding for ConRail; (2) continued Federal funding under the present structure; and (3) future Federal funding of ConRail to the extent necessary to preserve rail service in the region. Specified considerations to be made in the preparation of such reports. Directs that copies of such reports, with recommendations, be sent to the Secretary, the Commission, and the Governor of each State that could be affected by such recommendations.

Exempts from the antitrust laws actions taken by the Association or the Secretary prior to May 1, 1981, under this title.

Directs ConRail, by January 15, 1981, to submit to the Association its projections of: (1) the benefits to ConRail of this Act; (2) changes needed in the structure of ConRail's rail system; and (3) potential savings or increased revenues to ConRail.

Amends the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973 to authorize appropriations, subject to specified conditions, for ConRail emergency funding for fiscal year 1981.

Authorizes appropriations for the Association for fiscal year 1981.

Directs the Secretaries of Transportation and Treasury to jointly submit to Congress, within nine months of the effective date of this Act, a report on the anticipated effect of providing a tax exemption for obligations incurred in connection with the rehabilitation of railroad feeder lines.

Exempts applications, actions, or proceedings pending before the Secretary, the Commission, or any court on the effective date of this Act from the provisions therein.

Designates those rail corporations that receive direct Federal monetary support as Federal agencies for the purpose of applying specified Army regulations concerning the use of excess Army equipment by such railroads.

Directs the Commission, within six months of the effective date of this Act, to determine whether certain rates charged by the Alaska Railroad would have constituted a violation of specified provisions of this Act.