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Arbitration is a process in which parties to a dispute agree to present their case to a trained, neutral, third-party with expertise in the subject matter of the dispute (the arbitrator), and then let the arbitrator issue a final, binding decision.

Shippers and railroads can agree in advance to arbitrate certain types of disputes by “opting in” to the STB's arbitration program at any time.  When a party opts into the program, it may specify which types of arbitration-eligible matters it is willing to arbitrate.  The STB has approved the following four types of matters that parties can choose to arbitrate under the program:

· Demurrage
· Accessorial charges
· Misrouting or mishandling of rail cars
· Disputes over a carrier’s published rules and practices 
  applied to particular rail transportation.

Parties may agree to arbitrate additional matters on a case-by-case basis, so long as the dispute involves a matter within the STB’s statutory jurisdiction, the matter is not expressly prohibited by the arbitration rules, and the Board gives its consent.  Parties may also utilize the STB’s arbitration program even if one or both have not opted in prior to a dispute arising.  The program sets a monetary award cap of $200,000 for each arbitration, although the parties may choose to establish a different award cap amount (either higher or lower).

Arbitrations will be conducted by a panel of three arbitrators (unless the parties agree to the use of a single-neutral arbitrator), with each party (or side) choosing one person to serve as a party-appointed arbitrator.  There are no restrictions on who this person may be – parties may appoint an employee to serve as an arbitrator.  The third arbitrator will be neutral, chosen by the parties from a list of arbitrators compiled by the STB.  The list of arbitrators will be drawn from professional arbitration associations such as the American Arbitration Association, Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services, or the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.  The STB will pay the cost of obtaining this list, although the parties must pay for the arbitrators that they have chosen and split the costs of the neutral arbitrator.

The arbitrator must issue a decision no later than 30 days after the end of the evidentiary phase of arbitration.  Parties can appeal the arbitration decision to the STB or to a court of appropriate jurisdiction under the Federal Arbitration Act.   The STB will modify or vacate an arbitration award only on grounds that the arbitration decision reflects a clear abuse of arbitral authority or discretion or directly contravenes the STB’s statutory authority. 

To view the STB’s rules on arbitration, click here.

For additional information about arbitration services, contact the Rail Customer & Public Assistance Program at (202) 245-0238.


Party Eligible Issues Date
Opted In
Union Pacific
Demurrage; Accessorial Charges; Misrouting or
Mishandling of Rail Cars, all up to $200,000
(Subject to specific conditions -- see letter)
June 21,
Click to



Parties Date of Decision