Freight Rail Group Tries New Advocacy Track
After years of slow progress, the freight-shipping advocacy group Consumers United for Rail Equity announced earlier this month that it would now be known as the Freight Rail Customer Alliance. Its first move? Bring new industries into the member fold.
More than three decades in, the primary advocate for freight-rail customers is trying a new strategy on for size—along with a new name.
Consumers United for Rail Equity (CURE) came about in 1984, in the wake of rail-industry deregulation. The group’s early efforts were driven specifically by firms focused on coal and other heavy-freight needs. Mostly, it’s had to fend off regulatory bodies—first the Interstate Commerce Commission, which was dissolved in 1995, and then the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.
But despite past efforts, CURE struggled to make a case for improving competition for freight shippers.
So, earlier this month the group announced that it was changing its name to the Freight Rail Customer Alliance and would be pushing for improvements on the competition front. FRCA’s first executive director, Ann Warner, says that she’ll work to build collaborations in many sectors, including steel, coal, lumber, and automobile parts.
“FRCA will advocate for much needed reforms and process improvements at the Surface Transportation Board (STB) and common-sense economic reforms that will result in competitive freight rail service and fair prices,” Warner said in a news release. “FRCA does not seek economic re-regulation of the railroads; rather it seeks service options and fair prices that are not held to anticompetitive rates or service practices.”
The new strategy focus, reports the Lincoln Journal Star, comes about after a year-long analysis of CURE’s work as an organization. In December, the group’s membership approved a plan to restructure the organization, and, beyond the rebrand, FRCA is starting things off by reaching out to potential members that might be affected by a lack of competition in the railroad space.
“But the core mission is essentially the same, trying to seek reasonable rates and fairness for captive shippers,” said Shelley Sahling-Zart, a Lincoln Electric System vice president who will server on FRCA’s executive board, in comments to the Journal Star.