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FMC Commissioner Carl W. Bentzel testified before the U.S. Surface Transportation Board at its April 26, 2022, hearing “Urgent Issues in Freight Rail Service” where he cited the critical need for expanding intermodal rail services to keep pace with the surging maritime container volumes.

“Unfortunately, the railroads have not been able to keep pace or take advantage of maritime growth. Case in point, last year railroads saw a reduction of 16.8% of intermodal rail service, this is at a time when international container volumes surged to a 21% growth. This is stunning. Think how much revenue was left on the table. Think how much could have been made if they had even broken even, let alone increased market share. But even more to the issue, think of how much smoother and more efficient the supply chain could have run this past year if maritime surges had been matched by rail efficiency,” said Commissioner Bentzel.

“I believe that U.S. intermodal railroad service will be critical in the coming decade as we struggle with increased trade and congested entry points. Intermodal rail service provides a way to bypass crowded ports and facilitate the next leg of a container’s journey. Recently, railroads have prioritized cost savings, as opposed to revenue generation, to maximize intermodal market growth. All efforts should be made to work with and push the railroad industry to increase market share of intermodal cargo in the United States. This will facilitate greater integration at U.S. ports, and more advantageously position trucking to be more efficient in moving cargo from ports and railroad terminals,” Commissioner Bentzel stated.

Improving data exchange between railroads and other supply chain stakeholders is an important objective. Last month, Commissioner Bentzel traveled to Chicago to meet directly with railroad intermodal leadership and visit the rail yards in support of his Maritime Transportation Data Initiative (MTDI).

“I know that the railroads are working to improve to handle volume surges, and recognize that fluidity of movement is being impacted, as cargo continues to dwell in railroad and port terminals for too long, and we need better coordination throughout the system,” said Commissioner Bentzel.

In the last five months, Commissioner Bentzel has conducted 18 hearings with supply chain stakeholders on their data needs and expectations. These meetings will culminate in the June 1, 2022, Maritime Transportation Data Summit, hosted at the FMC, where initial findings and recommendations will be reviewed, and commented on by all meeting participants.

The U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Dr. Jewel H. Bronaugh also testified at the hearing.

“I want to commend Chairman Obermann and the Surface Transportation Board members for their continuing efforts to improve the railroad system, especially for intermodal shippers,” said Commissioner Bentzel

Carl W. Bentzel is a Commissioner with the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission. The thoughts and comments expressed here are their own and do not necessarily represent the position of the Commission. 

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