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Industry Data > Economic Data: URCS

The Uniform Rail Costing System (URCS), is the STB's general purpose costing methodology used to estimate variable and total unit costs for U.S. Class I railroads. The STB publishes URCS eastern- and western-United States regional costs based on a compilation of Class I data.

URCS is divided into three phases, or steps. Phase I developed regression coefficients needed to calculate cost variabilities. That phase was only run during URCS’s original development in the 1980s. Phase II calculates system average variable unit costs from R-1 and other data filed by the railroads. It is run annually using railroad information specific to that year. Phase III applies unit costs from Phase II to calculate the system average variable costs of railroad shipments. It is run annually to cost the STB’s Waybill Sample. It is also used by parties to submit cost evidence before the Board.

URCS evolved from the Interstate Commerce Commission's (ICC) general purpose costing methodology – Rail Form A (RFA), which was developed by the ICC in 1938. Congress called for revision to RFA in the 1970s. URCS was developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s and reviewed by the Railroad Accounting Principles Board (RAPB). URCS was adopted by the ICC in 1989 in Ex Parte No. 431 as the ICC's general purpose costing methodology. The ICC Termination Act of 1995 retained the provision that the market dominance determination be based on URCS costs. 10707(d)(1)(B)

URCS is used by the STB for a variety of statutory and non-statutory functions. URCS is statutorily required for making the jurisdictional determination in railroad maximum rate reasonableness proceedings. It also has a prominent role in determining whether a rate is reasonable and what relief a rail shipper should receive. URCS is also used to develop variable costs for making cost determinations in abandonment proceedings; to provide the railroad industry and shipper community with a standardized costing model; to cost the STB Car Load Waybill Sample; and to provide interested parties with basic cost information.

URCS questions should be directed to Mike Boyles at 202-245-0336 or e-mailed to URCS@stb.dot.gov

In the first step of the Surface Transportation Board’s ongoing efforts toward upgrading the Uniform Railroad Costing System (URCS), the Board has made available a new version of its URCS Phase III Railroad Cost Program. This new version will make URCS easier to use.

User feedback and analysis by the Board has resulted in technical improvements that will enhance the program’s functionality. Refinements to the Railroad Cost Program include:

  The model process flow improves the overall stability of the program and allows users to switch between the railroad cost program and the batch cost program without having to exit the program.
  The batch cost program has a row of headers indicating the contents of each column as the first line of the batch cost program output; has improved error reporting of the batch control file; and has improved error reporting if a movement cannot be costed.
  The output report has corrected references to the URCS worktables; has page numbers; allows the user to export a comma separated value (CSV) version of the output report; and allows the user to select a printer for where to send the output report (including the option to print selected pages).


This new version of the URCS Phase III Railroad Cost Program includes an updated user manual reflecting the technical improvements.  The new version is available for download by the public free of charge.

In 2015, the Board also made available a new spreadsheet version of its URCS Phase II worktables for 2013. These new spreadsheets replicate the 434-page PDF reports historically posted on the STB website. These spreadsheets are the result of a significant recoding of the legacy computer programs that created the URCS Phase II worktables. The spreadsheets provide the source of every calculation, thus making each calculation more transparent. The spreadsheets also allow users to change inputs and instantaneously observe the impact of such changes on resulting unit costs. In that way, the spreadsheets serve as an interactive Phase II model. The STB will be transitioning its future Phase II processing from its legacy programs to these new spreadsheets.

As indicated in the May 27, 2010 Surface Transportation Board Report to Congress Regarding the Uniform Railroad Costing System, URCS is a high priority project for the Board. The Board continues to work on further improvements to ensure that the model calculates costs that are as accurate and reflective of the modern rail industry as possible.

The most recent URCS Phase III Railroad Cost Program, the URCS worktables, URCS substitutions and URCS update data are attached below.

URCS Phase III Railroad Cost Program
Railroad Cost Program User Manual
Installing the Railroad Cost Program
URCS Phase III Railroad Cost Program for Windows7
Installing the Railroad Cost Program for Windows 7
URCS 2013 Worktables (6.6 MB)
URCS 2013 Worktables – Excel Version (21.6 MB)
URCS 2013 Substitutions (.1 MB)
URCS 2013 Update Data (.3 MB)

URCS Data for prior years.

URCS 2012 Worktables (6.6 MB)
URCS 2012 Substitutions (.1 MB)
URCS 2012 Update Data (.3 MB)
URCS 2011 Worktables (6.4 MB)
URCS 2011 Substitutions (.1 MB)
URCS 2011 Update Data (.4 MB)
URCS 2010 Worktables (6.6 MB)
URCS 2010 Substitutions (.1 MB)
URCS 2010 Update Data (.3 MB)
URCS 2009 Worktables (6.4 MB)
URCS 2009 Substitutions (.1 MB)
URCS 2009 Update Data (.3 MB)
URCS 2008 Worktables (6.6 MB)
URCS 2008 Substitutions (.1 MB)
URCs 2008 Update Data (.3 MB)
URCS 2007 Worktables (2.8 MB)
URCS 2007 Substitutions (.1 MB)
URCS 2007 Update Data (.3 MB)
URCS 2006 Worktables (2.8 MB)
URCS 2006 Substitutions (.1 MB)
URCS 2006 Update Data (.3 MB)