In December 1998, STB agreed to extend the bureaus' antitrust immunity for one year while criticizing them for "unrealistically high" class rates. It said future immunity would hinge, in part, on whether or not the bureaus reduced baseline rates to "market based" levels.
STB also said it wanted more shipper participation in freight classification. But since Congress was supposed to address the rate bureau issue in 1999, STB put its decisions on hold.
In a recent letter to the STB, NITL noted that the law establishing the Office of Motor Carrier Safety does address the rate bureau issue, but NITL contends it didn't do anything to deter STB from carrying out its decision.
Specifically, NITL asked the agency to immediately seek comments on how to effect an appropriate reduction of "benchmark rates" and how to open the classification process to more shipper input.
NITL suggests the use of dispute resolution alternatives, such as mediation or arbitration, to handle classification disputes. Use of such techniques, it said, would be a cost-effective means of resolving disputes while reducing the STB workload.