Surface Transportation Board

Surface Transportation Board

The Surface Transportation Board [1] of the United States is a bipartisan, decisionally-independent adjudicatory body organizationally housed within the U.S. Department of Transportation. The STB was established in 1996 to assume some of the regulatory functions that had been administered by the Interstate Commerce Commission when the ICC was abolished. Other ICC regulatory functions were either eliminated or transferred to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics within DOT.

The STB has broad economic regulatory oversight of railroads, including rates, service, the construction, acquisition and abandonment of rail lines, carrier mergers and interchange of traffic among carriers. The STB also has certain oversight[which?] of pipeline carriers, intercity bus carriers, moving van companies, trucking companies involved in collective activities and water carriers engaged in non-contiguous domestic trade. The Board has wide discretion, through its exemption authority from certain[which?] federal, state and local laws, to tailor its regulatory activities to meet the nation’s changing transportation needs.[citation needed]


Performance and policy goals

The Board provides a forum for the resolution of surface-transportation disputes and other matters within its jurisdiction. It has the authority to limit or remove regulatory requirements where appropriate.[citation needed]

Organizational structure and current members

The Board is composed of three members nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate for five-year terms. The Board’s chairman is designated by the President from among the members. As its chief executive, the chairman coordinates and organizes the agency’s work and acts as its representative in legislative matters and in relations with other governmental bodies. Chairman Daniel R. Elliott III was sworn in as the fifth chairman of the Surface Transportation Board on Aug. 13, 2009. He was nominated to the Board by President Barack Obama on July 20, 2009 for a five-year term expiring Dec. 31, 2013. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Aug. 7, 2009.[2]

The vice chairman represents the Board and assumes the chairman’s duties as appropriate. Additionally, the vice chairman oversees matters involving the admission, discipline, and disbarment of non-attorney Board practitioners. Vice Chairman Charles D. Nottingham was sworn in on August 14, 2006, as a Board Member for a term ending December 31, 2010 and served as Board Chairman from August 14, 2006 to March 12, 2009.[citation needed]

Dr. Francis P. Mulvey is the board's third member. Mulvey was nominated to the Board by President George W. Bush on November 17, 2003, for a four-year term expiring on December 31, 2007. President Bush nominated Dr. Mulvey to a second term of office on November 30, 2007. On December 19, 2007, the Senate confirmed Mulvey's second term as a Member of the Board for a term of office ending December 31, 2012. Mulvey was designated Acting Chairman of the Board on March 12, 2009, by President Barack Obama.[citation needed]

Assisting the Board in carrying out its responsibilities is a staff of 150 with experience in economics, law, accounting, transportation analysis, finance and administration.[citation needed]


Office of Public Assistance, Governmental Affairs, and Compliance

The Office of Public Assistance, Governmental Affairs, and Compliance serves as the agency’s principal point of contact with Congress, state and local governments, the media, industry stakeholders and the general public. This office includes the Rail Customer and Public Assistance Program, where Board staff solves problems in ways ranging from a simple answer to a telephone inquiry to lengthy informal dispute resolution efforts between railroads and shippers.[3]

Office of Economics

The Office of Economics analyzes rate cases, conducts economic and financial analyses of the railroad industry, and audits Class I railroads.

Office of Environmental Analysis

The Office of Environmental Analysis is responsible for undertaking environmental reviews of proposed STB actions in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other environmental laws and making environmental recommendations to the STB.

Office of the Managing Director

The Office of the Managing Director handles administrative matters such as personnel, budget and information technology.

Office of Proceedings

The Office of Proceedings (OP) is the office with primary responsibility for developing the public record in formal cases (or proceedings) filed with the STB, making recommendations regarding the resolution of issues presented in those cases, and preparing the decisions issued by the Board.

The Office of Proceedings is a legal office, consisting almost entirely of attorneys and paralegal specialists, responsible for the majority of the cases at the STB. The office applies the Interstate Commerce Act, as amended by the ICC Termination Act of 1995, as well as the Board's own regulations.[4] In carrying out its responsibilities, the Office of Proceedings obtains and applies any necessary input from economic, financial, operational, environmental, and other legal staff experts throughout the agency.

The Office of Proceedings includes a clearance unit responsible for tabulating votes on STB cases and recording the official outcome of those votes, and a recordations unit that enters data about a filing's primary and secondary documents into the STB Recordations database, which is accessible to the public on the STB web site.

Office of General Counsel

The Office of the General Counsel (OGC) responds to questions on a variety of legal issues. However, its primary mission is two-fold: to defend the STB's decisions in court and to assess the defensibility of agency decisions that might be challenged in court. Unlike most Federal agencies, the STB has independent litigating authority (49 U.S.C. 703d). Under the Hobbs Act , when an STB order or decision is challenged in the U.S. Court of Appeals, both the STB (represented by the agency's own attorneys) and the United States (represented by U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys) must be named as "respondents" (defendants), and both have authority to appear in court in such cases.[5] STB and DOJ attorneys, in most cases, jointly defend the agency's decisions, with the STB's attorneys preparing written briefs (in consultation with DOJ attorneys) and presenting oral arguments on behalf of the Federal Government.

In performing defensibility assessments, OGC attorneys meet with other STB staff to discuss cases before draft decisions are prepared. Defensibility assessments are key to issuing sound decisions that are less likely to be challenged and, if challenged, are more likely to be upheld.


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Rail Customer and Public Assistance program". 
  4. ^ STB regulations are found at Title 49, parts 1000 to 1332 of the Code of Federal Regulations. ([2]).
  5. ^ See 28 U.S.C. § 2323.

External links

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