A further look at the Staggers Rail Act: Mining the available data

Gerard J. McCullough, Louis S. Thompson

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2 Scopus citations


The Staggers Rail Act of 1980 has been intensively studied, but quantitative evaluations of the impacts of the Act have been affected by limitations in publicly available information. In particular, analyses of tariffs (revenue/ton-mile) and profitability (R/VC cost ratios) at the level of particular commodities have been affected by revenue masking, a practice in which actual revenues from contract movements are disguised ("masked") in publicly available waybill data in order to keep contract pricing terms confidential. This paper describes a method for using publicly available data in making useful estimates of unmasked revenues in a number of important commodity groups. The paper argues that the net effect of revenue masking has been to make commodity specific revenues reported in public waybill data appear significantly higher than they actually are. As a result, the favorable impact of the Act on these tariffs may have been understated and the apparent market power of the railroads may have been exaggerated. Enhanced railroad efficiency due to the interaction of contract tariffs with improved technology and network rationalization has yielded not only significant savings to shippers but also a much stronger financial position for the U.S. Class I railroads.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-10
Number of pages8
JournalResearch in Transportation Business and Management
StatePublished - Apr 2013


  • Lerner indices
  • Revenue masking
  • Staggers Act
  • Waybill sample


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