Martin J. “Marty” Oberman was designated by President Joe Biden on Thursday as chairman of the Surface Transportation Board (STB).

Oberman’s term as an STB member will expire on Jan. 31, 2023. He was sworn in to serve his first term on Jan. 22, 2019, and he became vice chairman on Jan. 6, 2020.

The chairmanship role typically sets the tone for what proceedings and issues the board will focus on for the year.

Trade groups praised Oberman’s appointment. Association of American Railroads (AAR) President and CEO Ian Jefferies said, “AAR congratulates Marty Oberman on his appointment to lead the STB as the agency continues its mission of facilitating a fluid, reliable rail network. Chairman Oberman’s knowledge of rail operations and experience working with many diverse stakeholders will serve him well as he leads the STB’s consideration of many important issues.” 

Jefferies continued, “With numerous pending proposals before the board, railroads urge the members to ground deliberations in sound economic principles and reject measures that would undermine the industry’s ability to invest in and for the future. Freight railroads look forward to continued engagement with the new chairman about how the industry can continue to deliver for rail customers and the American public.”

Chris Jahn, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), said Oberman “will bring several years of board experience to the job, including his tenure as vice chair, as well as his many years of transportation experience prior to serving on the STB. Chairman Oberman will also benefit from the recent addition of two highly qualified members, Mr. Primus and Ms. Schultz, who were added to the board earlier this year. We would also like to thank outgoing Chair Ann Begeman for her leadership on tackling service issues and excessive charges related to the adoption of precision scheduled railroading.

“Modernizing our nation’s freight rail policies is critical to helping build back our economy and grow U.S. manufacturing,” said Jahn, whose trade group represents chemicals shippers. “We look forward to working with Chairman Oberman and the other members of the board to adopt much-needed reforms that will ensure large and small businesses have access to affordable and reliable service.”

For his part, Oberman released a statement Thursday thanking Begeman for her work as STB chair since March 2018.

“I wish to thank and applaud Ann Begeman for her tireless leadership and dedication to the Surface Transportation Board as chairman for the last four years. The STB and our regulatory system are substantially better off than when she started,” he said. 

“Among the complexities faced by the agency and the industry during Ann’s tenure were service challenges and weather crises, demurrage issues and the ongoing pandemic, all while most of the Class I railroads have undertaken major changes to their operating plans. Throughout all, Ann guided the agency’s efforts to collect data and ensure frequent communication between railroads, shippers, all other stakeholders and the board, essential to the resolution of issues big and small. In particular, Ann led the board through major initiatives to update the board’s policies and procedures in order to resolve significant issues which had arisen with demurrage.

“Most importantly, Ann has championed our efforts to recognize and address the long-standing need for reform of the board’s rate review processes, forcefully initiating board action to bring about real and productive change. Wisely, she created the board’s rate reform task force to identify potentially more affordable, accessible and practical rate review mechanisms. Through Ann’s leadership, we have already accomplished significant changes. I am confident that Ann’s efforts will result in additional board initiatives that will advance the interests of all stakeholders.

“We also cannot overlook Ann’s leadership through major administrative changes, including redesign of the agency’s office space and, most recently, her successful management of the board’s transition to full-time virtual work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Ann not only presided over the addition of Patrick Fuchs and myself to the board but now has had the opportunity to preside over the recent addition of Robert Primus and Michelle Schultz, bringing the board to its full complement of five members for the first time. Throughout, Ann has shown an endless dedication to this agency and its employees, and I know I speak for the entire STB community as we acknowledge and appreciate Ann for her past and continuing service.”

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