Nearly three-dozen IWLA-member companies are dues-paying participants in the IWLA Rail Council. These rail-served warehousing organizations play an active role in shaping how the industry works with railroads.
For example, the IWLA Rail Council made it a goal to work closely with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board. This regulatory agency handles railroad rate/service disputes and oversees the industry’s restructuring activities.
In 2013, the IWLA Rail Council secured Chip Nottingham, a former STB chairman, as IWLA’s retained counsel for rail affairs. “Nottingham’s insight into the inner workings of the STB gives us a huge advantage on approaching issues and becoming an asset,” says co-chairman, John Tighe, II, president of Tighe Logistics Group based in Woburn, Mass.
Another significant development was the council’s instrumental role in the election of Jeanne Sebring, director of North American Logistics at International Paper, to the STB’s Railroad-Shipper Transportation Advisory Council (RSTAC).
“We view Jeanne as a protector of the interest of the warehouse-based third-party logistics industry. We are confident in her ability to bring new perspectives to the board on issues of great impact next year,” Tighe says.
Through advancing IWLA’s relationship with the STB, IWLA Rail Council members are continuously given a voice in many of the decisions that will affect their ability to serve their customers. One example of this was IWLA’s efforts to battle demurrage. A decision against the warehouse interests would place burdensome limitations on the load/unload time. In turn, this could create additional costs through real-time tracking and giving customers power to dispute accrued demurrage.
IWLA concentrated its messaging on the issue to this: Class 1 railroads continue to focus on line-haul operations where they make their main profits. Less focus is concentrated on switching. As a result, Class 1s are reducing switching service levels, making it more difficult to activate tracks. And they are refusing to hand off switch traffic even though they know the practice is unprofitable. The final ruling is still pending before the STB.
Progress with the STB has spilled into other useful connections: IWLA Rail Council representatives were involved during at events organized by the National Industrial Transportation League, Midwest Shippers Association, North American Rail Shippers and Pacific Northwest Association of Rail Shippers. These events also attracted top intermodal and rail companies.
The outlook is bright for the group as it continues to strengthen its (and IWLA’s) presence in the industry. “The IWLA Rail Council has become recognized by the STB as a viable and respected industry group,” Tighe says. “We plan to continue this pace and assist each other in resolving problems with track activation and service issues.”