The Surface Transportation Board (STB) of the United States is a federal, bipartisan, independent adjudicatory board. 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 oversight 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 federal, state and local laws, to tailor its regulatory activities to meet the nation's changing transportation needs.
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.
The Board is composed of five members nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate for five-year terms. The Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act expanded the Board from three to five members in 2015.
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 nominated to the Surface Transportation Board by President Barack Obama on January 13, 2015, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on June 22, 2015, and was sworn in as the Board's chairman on June 26, 2015, for a term of office expiring December 31, 2018. Chairman Elliott is in his second term at the Board, having previously served as the agency's chairman from August 13, 2009, until December 31, 2014.
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. Deb Miller was sworn in on April 28, 2014, as a Member of the Board for a term of office expiring on December 31, 2017, following her September 25, 2013, nomination to the Board by President Obama and her confirmation by the United States Senate on April 9, 2014. She was designated vice chairman (May 27, 2014 – December 31, 2014); served as acting chairman (January 1, 2015 – June 26, 2015); and was again designated vice chairman on January 7, 2016, in the agency's annual rotation of the vice chairmanship.
Ann D. Begeman was sworn in May 2, 2011, as a member of the Board. She currently serves as chairperson.
Martin J. Oberman was confirmed to the Board on January 3, 2019, by a voice vote in the United States Senate.
Patrick Fuchs was confirmed to the Board on January 2, 2019, by a voice vote in the United States Senate. He currently serves as vice-chairperson.
Assisting the Board in carrying out its responsibilities is a staff of 150 with experience in economics, law, accounting, transportation analysis, finance and administration.
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.
The Office of Economics analyzes rate cases, conducts economic and financial analyses of the railroad industry, and audits Class I railroads.
The Office of Economics, Environmental Analysis and Administration 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.
The Office of the Managing Director handles administrative matters such as personnel, budget and information technology.
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. 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.
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. § 703(d)). 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. 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.