WASHINGTON, July 8 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden will order U.S. transportation agencies to crack down on anti-competitive conduct and unjust fees in the rail and sea shipping industries to try to lower costs to consumers, the White House said on Thursday.
Biden will deliver remarks at 1:30 p.m. and sign an “executive order on promoting competition in the American economy,” the administration said. The order is expected to include dozens of provisions to boost competition, officials said.
The White House said one part of the president’s wide-ranging executive order is aimed at the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) and the Surface Transportation Board (STB).
White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted that shipping costs had risen dramatically during the months of the pandemic.
The order will urge the STB “to allow shippers to more easily challenge inflated rates when there is no competition between two routes.”
Biden will urge the FMC “to take all possible steps to protect American exporters from the high costs imposed by the ocean carriers” and to “crack down on unjust and unreasonable fees,” the White House said.
The Association of American Railroads said on Thursday that “competition remains fierce across freight providers” and warned some proposed reforms would put railroads, “an environmentally friendly option that invests $25 billion annually in infrastructure – at an untold disadvantage.”
Railroad stocks fell on the news, including CSX Corp (CSX.O), Kansas City Southern (KSU.N) and Norfolk Southern Corp (NSC.N), which were all down more than 6%.
Biden’s executive order, meant to foster competition throughout the economy, will include measures ranging from making it easier for farmers to repair their own tractors to requiring airlines to refund baggage fees for delayed luggage.
Reuters first reported some plans for the executive order last week and the White House has since rolled out additional proposals. read more
Transport costs for shipping goods have soared during the COVID-19 pandemic at a time of growing consolidation in transportation markets.
The forthcoming executive order “encourages the independent federal agencies regulating these markets to take steps to promote competition – which will save American businesses money on shipping costs. That, in turn, will lower prices for American consumers,” a source told Reuters earlier.
The executive order will also address noncompete agreements for workers, licensing requirements, defense contracts, cell phones, agriculture and antitrust enforcement. read more
Reporting by David Shepardson; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Howard Goller and Peter Cooney
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee has just marked up a five-year surface transportation reauthorization bill known as the INVEST in America Act. The behemoth package remains separate from the Biden administration’s efforts to pass an “infrastructure and jobs” plan and is a marked separation from the bipartisan highway bill recently passed through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Even if it stands no real chance in the Senate as currently written, American consumers and small businesses should understand how problematic it is. This is particularly true when considering the need to help the economy recover. And nowhere is it perhaps clearer than in how the bill treats privately-owned freight railroads, which ironically need nothing out of the legislation.
As the American Consumer Institute has documented over the years, rail is critically important to the U.S. economy in ways that few realize. Thanks to smart, bipartisan regulatory reform that largely ridded the sector of rate regulation some 40 years ago, consumers today enjoy some $10 billion in annual savings. In short, less regulation worked for consumers.
Unlike the bevy of highway or transit advocates, railroads do not need federal handouts, while trucking relies on government-built highways and bridges.
Yet the House majority, apparently perturbed by the fact that railroads are solvent and have three times higher productivity than in the past, has gone out of its way to placate narrow lobbying interests. As the largest rail labor union recently proclaimed in celebrating the fact that Congress seeks to adopt their agenda in full: “The representatives also heard our voices regarding almost every one of the concerns we have about the current state of the railroad industry — crew size, train length, the utility of Positive Train Control and safety investigations — to name a few.”
A long list indeed.
While the world is moving to autonomous vehicles, perhaps most troubling is the continued effort to lock in the current operating practice of two individuals sitting inside a locomotive cab forever into the future. While it is tempting to assume that two-person crews are automatically safer than one-person crews, there’s absolutely no empirical evidence to support this.
In May 2019, the Federal Railroad Administration, the national safety regulator for railroads, definitively decided that regulation is not needed in this area. The FRA concluded that it would only chill investment and innovation, even if labor union leaders worried more about their leadership posts than their members who vocally pushed for a federal mandate. The previous administration said itself in 2016, that it “…cannot provide reliable or conclusive statistical data to suggest whether one-person crew operations are generally safer or less safe than multiple-person crew operations.”
Rather than enhance safety, mandating two-person crews could make rail operations more dangerous by crippling railroads’ ability to control costs and fund equipment upgrades. “A law or regulation that permanently requires a minimum crew size of two — especially where there is no evidence that one-person crews are less safe — can only stand in
ELBA TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Authorities said a man broke into his ex-girlfriend’s house in Lapeer County early Monday, took the couple’s shared vehicle and later crashed it.
The 37-year-old man is accused of breaking into the home on Georgia Drive in Elba Township at 3:34 a.m. He used to live there but moved out last fall when the pair broke up.
He attempted to take his 37-year-old ex-girlfriend’s purse, which had the keys to a 2015 White Dodge Journey inside. Officials said there was a physical altercation that started in the house and continued into the driveway.
The man is accused of hitting the garage then dragging the woman alongside the vehicle for a distance before leaving. She suffered minor injuries and did not want medical treatment.
Authorities said the vehicle was registered to both the man and woman so it was not listed as stolen, but the man had a warrant for his arrest.
The woman told authorities that the man broke into the house alone but when he left the scene, there was a 36-year-old woman from Mount Morris with him.
When deputies learned the man may be in Flint, they informed Flint police. Authorities said there was a pursuit that ended with a crash.
Officials said the man ran a red light at W. Stewart Avenue and Cilo Road during the chase and crashed into a Jeep. The driver of the Jeep is in critical condition.
The man and his passenger, who officials say is a parole absconder, both were treated for minor injuries. They are now in custody.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Lt. Jason Cate at 810-237-6808.
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