The Senate Judiciary Committee “approved legislation on Thursday that would strip freight railroads of their antitrust exemptions,” Reuters reports.
Proponents of the legislation “are critical of rail industry consolidation that has left four companies providing nearly 90 percent of U.S. freight transportation and shippers complaining of rate overcharges.”
Union Pacific Corp, Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe, CSX Corp and Norfolk Southern Corp are the major freight hauling railroads.
They have a limited antitrust exemption under federal law and are permitted to negotiate rates with their customers, as opposed to having rate increases fixed by regulators.
Rail “transports roughly 40 percent of domestic freight.”
The railroads say they do not overcharge for freight, and increased regulation would add costs that would hamper the industry’s ability to sustain and build its network and capacity.
The Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act was approved by a vote of 14 to 1. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) is the lead author.
A press release from Kohl’s office notes that this is a bipartisan bill:
Kohl’s legislation is cosponsored by the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jon Tester (D-MT), David Vitter (R-LA) and Al Franken (D-MN).