3/11/2009

railroads' common carrier obligation and hazardous loads

I'm very interested in the outcome of this STB (Surface Transportation Board) hearing on the UP and chlorine shipment debate. The railroads' liability in these movements is very interesting and has gotten wicked expensive in the past decade. That aspect is interesting in it's own right, but I've always operated on the basic assumption of railroads as full common-carriers with the obligation to quote rates for any shipment from any location to another. This has generally been the legal implication too, but this one case could change all of that and give much more discretionary power to the railroads as corporate entities, something I'm a little hesitant of given the unique pseudo-not-really-monopoly status inherent to their infrastructure.

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