Mediation is a process in which parties attempt to negotiate an agreement that resolves some or all of the issues in dispute, with the assistance of a trained, neutral, third-party mediator. Mediation is only binding if the parties reach an agreement; the mediator cannot impose an agreement or solution on the parties.
The Board offers formal and informal mediation services in an effort to find common ground between shippers and transportation providers. These services have resulted in the resolution of a number of disputes that otherwise would have had to be adjudicated, saving those parties involved time and money.
Mediations are conducted by a member of the STB staff that has had mediation training (though an outside mediator can be used if the parties agree and pay the costs associated with doing so). If mediation is unsuccessful, the STB staff that served as the mediator (or mediators) is recused from working on the formal proceeding.
Parties involved in a formal proceeding before the Board always have the option of voluntarily requesting mediation. In addition, the Board has the authority to direct parties in a formal proceeding to mediate – with or without the consent of the parties. The Board also requires that the parties involved in a dispute over the level of a railroad’s rates must engage in mediation at the beginning of the case. (Mediation is not available in those Board proceedings in which the agency is required to grant or deny a license or other regulatory approval or exemption, and those that involve labor protection.)
The mediation process is governed by a strict confidentiality policy, which is set forth in the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act (5 U.S.C. 574(a)-(b)) and the Board’s rules (49 C.F.R. 1109.3(d) and 1109.4(e)). At the beginning of mediation, the parties are required to sign an Agreement to Mediate, in which they agree to adhere to the Board’s confidentiality rules.
Click here for the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act’s confidentiality requirements
Click here for the STB’s rules on Mediation
Click here for a Copy of the Agreement to Mediate