Shippers will have more rights regarding the way their freight is classified for motor carrier ratemaking purposes, following a new ruling from the Surface Transportation Board on a two-year-old agreement. In late 2001, the STB approved an agreement proposed by the National Classification Committee (NCC), the trucking industry organization that classifies freight based on attributes such as density and handling characteristics. At that time,the STB said the agreement had to ensure that shippers had access to information at an early stage in the classification process and received the right to appeal any classification to a neutral arbitrator.
In its decision in late March, the STB said the NCC's revised agreement met those requirements. The changes to the agreement were based on the STB's 2001 order and comments by several shipper organizations, including the National Industrial Transportation League and NASSTRAC.
Once the agreement takes effect in June, the NCC will publish every formal proposal on its Web site within two business days of the deadline for receiving materials. The agreement also establishes time tables for appeals and rules for selecting arbitrators for those appeals.
In another decision on the same day, the STB affirmed its "truth-in-rates" ruling for motor carrier freight bureaus. The initial decision, also handed down in November 2001, required rate bureaus to provide shippers with the range of discounts off tariff rates typically provided by carriers who were bureau members. (Those discounts of ten turn out to be quite substantial.) The rule also prohibited carriers from imposing a loss-of-discount penalty based on the bureau's tariff for late payments. "Our efforts have been directed at ensuring that this collective rate setting process does not skew market pricing or mislead shippers as to the rates prevailing in the market ," the board wrote in its current decision.