Audit Reports

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Quality of Service Provided to Rail Shippers

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On February 15, we issued our report on the quality of service provided to rail shippers as required by the Conference Report accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008. The objectives of the report were to: (1) assess the availability of service guarantees from freight railroads to shippers of coal, wheat, lumber, and ethanol since 2004; (2) assess the quality of service provided to these shippers during the same time period; and (3) identify the causes of deficiencies in service to shippers during this time. 

We found that rail service guarantees in general have become more difficult for commodity shippers to obtain, especially through contracts.  The quality of freight rail service has varied considerably since 2004, as indicated by internal railroad data and interviews with stakeholders, but the information railroads make available to the public is insufficient to allow for monitoring of rail service quality.  Demand levels, derailments, and weather events have all driven the fluctuations in rail service quality since 2004.  However, dramatic changes in demand for rail service had the greatest impact.

This report contains no recommendations.