STB Dismisses One Claim Against BNSF, Keeps Another

WASHINGTON — The STB has dismissed a company’s claim BNSF Railway Co. is “double recovering revenue” from a fuel surcharge, but also denied the railroad’s motion to dismiss a second claim that is earning excessive profits from the surcharge.

Cargill Inc. on April 19 filed a three-part complaint against BNSF, alleging that it has violated the Board’s fuel surcharge rules. A month later, BNSF asked that the claims be dismissed.

“Cargill has pointed to no use by BNSF of any form of fuel escalator, index, or other cost adjustment mechanism in its base tariff that contains a fuel cost component,” the STB said in its opinion. “Rather, BNSF states, to the contrary, that ‘[n]ew rates are set from time to time by BNSF without express reference to costs.'”

In concluding an inquiry into railroad fuel surcharge practices, the STB in January 2007 issued a final rule declaring it an unreasonable practice for railroads to compute fuel surcharges in a manner that does not correlate with actual fuel costs for specific rail shipments.

In its decision, the STB prohibited the assessment of fuel surcharges based on a percentage calculation of the base rate charged to freight railroad customers. The decision also prohibits “double-dipping” — applying to the same traffic both a fuel surcharge and a rate increase based on a cost index that includes a fuel component.