Arlington, Virginia - Members of the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD) from across the Midwest begin meeting in Chicago today for the 2015 Central Region Meeting, an annual event where chemical distributors of all sizes will strategize on crucial issues that impact their industry. One issue at the forefront of the discussions that greatly affects Illinois rail shippers is the reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Board (STB).

“We’re thrilled to host this meeting in Chicago as it is a hub for chemical distributors from across the region,” said NACD President Eric R. Byer. “The timing of this meeting is particularly important as Congress is considering the next steps in modernizing the STB.”

Today, 50 percent of all U.S. rail freight passes through Chicago. Until recently, there were 26 major railroads in business in the nation but that number is now down to seven, with just four dominating the market. The lack of competition often leads to only the largest companies getting service, while chemical distributors, who are primarily small businesses and make up approximately 20 companies in Illinois alone, face unfair rate hikes.

Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) have introduced legislation (S. 808) to make the STB function better for rail shippers, which includes 40 percent of all chemical distributors, by expanding the number of board members for the STB from three to five, increasing transparency, and making changes to the arbitration and investigation practices in place at the STB.

During the meeting, central region NACD members will work with their advocates in Washington, D.C. on ways to better inform lawmakers about how STB reform can increase efficiency and create jobs. In April, NACD members participated in more than 130 meetings with Members of Congress about rail reform and other concerns, making the upcoming meeting an opportunity to gauge progress on the issue.

“The lack of freight rail competition is costly to American businesses,” concluded Byer. “The rail sector is completely different than it was 20 years ago when Congress created the STB. Now is the time to re-evaluate and modernize our rail policy framework to meet present and future needs.”