Scheme Nickname: 
Main adjudication scheme - formal & informal

Formal adjudication scheme to resolve disputes relating to rate, service, restructuring, financial, and/or operational matters in three general areas: rail; motor and water; and pipelines. (See 49 CFR Parts 1111 - 1114). While the Board adjudicates a variety of matters, rail-related cases comprise most of the Board's caseload. Matters adjudicated are often highly technical and complex, involving detailed economic and rate analyses. Many (and, perhaps, most) matters come to the Board through applications by private parties for requisite applications or exemptions, by complaints filed by the general public. The Board also initiates some matters through its own investigation, though the Board is not primarily an enforcement agency. The Board has an extensive ADR program.

Comments/Notes on Adjudication Structure: 
Types of Adjudication: 
Type A
Type B
Comments/Notes on Adjudication Type(s): 
Two matters covered by this scheme are required by the ICC Termination Act of 1995 to be "on the record" proceedings -- see 49 USC 10907 (determinations of "public convenience and necessity" to permit/require sale of railroad lines), 11121 (hearings on application relating to provision of car services by railroads). All other matters covered by this section appear to be "regulatory" (i.e., non-statutory) adjudications that are formal in the procedural sense, but are not required to be "on the record" APA proceedings. Merger/acquisition are expressly noted in the ICC Termination Act as not being "on the record proceedings" (see 49 USC 11324(f)(1)), perhaps because ex parte communications are statutorily permitted with certain conditions. (see 49 USC 11324(f)(2) & (3))
Resources & Articles: 
STB Public Primer (undated):
Final Rule-Mediaiton and Arbitration Procedures: 78 Fed. Reg. 29071 (May 17, 2013)
Cong. Testimony of Don Ellitot (Chair) (2010):
Pfohl, "Who Should Pay for Agency Adjudication? A Study of $200,00 Filing Fees at STB"-25 Transp. L. J. 57 (Summer, 1997)
Distinctive Features: 
* ADR Push - STB adopted substantially revised arbitration/mediation rules in 2013 in large part because, as the Board acknowledged, its prior rules (adopted in 1997) had remained largely unused since they were instituted. Chair Don Elliot (an ACUS member on the Collaborative Governance Committee) is also a big proponent of improving the Board's ADR processes as noted in his Congressional testimony. Chair Elliot testified that the Board was working to "revitalize the ... moribund arbitration process." Presumably, statistics provided by STB in this project will help shed light on whether these efforts have had the desired effect of encouraging greater use of arbitration and mediation to resolve rail-related and other disputes. * Filing Fees - STB has the budgetary authority to retain non-appropriated funding, and fees cover a substantial portion of the agency's operating expenses. (See ACUS Sourcebook of Executive Agencies tbl. 14). STB's filing fee schedule is extensive, and some fees are quite large. (See 49 CFR 1002.2) For example, the fee for an application for a merger/consolidation considered a "major transaction" is $1.5 million. Other fees are the hundreds or thousands of dollars. Some have questioned the fairness and efficacy of a fee-based adjudication process. (See Pfohl article above.) Chair Elliot has also noted that the Board is reviewing filing fees due to concerns about accessibility of adjudication to all parties. Elliot testified: "[F]iling fees should not deter parties from bringing disputes to the Board." (See Elliot testimony above.)
Other Comments: 
* More Oral Arguments - The Board has made efforts recently to make their proceedings more transparent. Per testimony of Chair Eilliot, the Board has begun holding regular oral arguments in a number of cases. He stated that oral argument makes Board less of a "mystery," and gives stakeholders better insights into the Board's decision-making process. (See Chair Elliot testimony listed above.) * "Plain Language" Written Decisions - To make often technical decisions more understandable to the public, Chair Elliot testified that the Board has started to put a "plain language" statement at the beginning of each written decision -- a sort of decision preamble -- that "explains in plain, ordinary language (devoid of legalese) what the decision does and why." (See Chair Elliot testimony listed above.) * Practitioner Standards & Code of Ethics - See 49 CFR pt. 1100
Verified by Agency: 
Is this a Major Adjudication: