Report on the Regulatory Reform Provisions of the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976

This report is in response to a request from the General Counsel of the Senate Commerce Committee for a list of the regulatory reform provisions of the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 (4R Act) , for a description of how the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC or Commission) has implemented its responsibilities under those provisions, and, generally, for a discussion of the impact and efficacy of the 4R Act reforms. The 4R Act made changes in virtually all of the ICC's regulatory responsibilities. In the rate-related area, various provisions of the 4R Act addressed: ICC maximum and minimum rate regulation authority; rate bureaus; separate rates for distinct rail services; demand-sensitive ratemaking; capital incentive rates; rates on recyclable materials; intrastate rates; and divisions of revenues from rates jointly made by two or more railroads. In addition to these changes, and, in a sense, governing all of them, is a 4R Act requirement that the ICC determine what revenue levels would be adequate for an efficient, well-managed rail system, and then assist the railroads in achieving those revenues. Finally, in order to implement these changes and the ICC's other regulatory responsibilities as fairly and accurately as possible, Congress mandated an entirely new cost and revenue accounting and reporting system. In areas other than rate regulation, the 4R Act mandated changes in ICC abandonment and merger policies and procedures, demurrage and car-hire formulas, and tariff publication requirements. A new provision was added also requiring the Commission to exempt certain persons or transactions from any or all ICC regulations if such exemptions were found appropriate. Section II of this report describes in some detail the statutory changes themselves. Section III describes the manner in which those changes were actually carried out by the ICC, the results of the changes, and the general impact of the 4R Act. Three important conclusions should be noted at the outset: first, the 4R Act did not contain numerous sweeping changes - many, in fact, were quite minor and others were vague or inconsistent; second, there has never been a full test of the reforms that were enacted. The caution of the railroad industry in using the new provisions, the time taken by the ICC (and, often, the courts) in promulgating and reviewing standards and procedures, and ICC interpretations of several crucial 4R Act provisions, have effectively precluded such a test. Finally, patchwork reforms like the 4R Act superimposed on an entrenched regulatory system are not likely to succeed. Time after time, statutory changes thought to be simple become ensnared in regulatory webs or protracted courtroom litigation. In the discussion in this report the authors attempt to show both how the ICC thwarted some reforms as well as the ways in which the reforms themselves were either too limited or too ambiguous.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Pagination: 128p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01637937
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS, ATRI, USDOT
  • Created Date: Jun 13 2017 6:06PM