Help for Shippers
Shippers have a right to access railway services in Canada under the Canada Transportation Act. This right is the Common Carrier Obligation and is a defining principle of Canadian freight rail service.
We support shippers by:
- monitoring railway company level of services,
- providing assistance and guidance to shippers, and
- resolving disputes between railways and shippers.
Rail Help Line
You can talk to our experts about any rail level of service complaints you may have through our Rail Help Line.
You can reach us at 1-877-850-7148.
Freight Rail Service and Rates
Our guide on Freight Rail Service and Rates can help you:
- understand your rights as a shipper,
- how we can resolve disputes between you and a railway company.
The guide includes information about the following:
- your right to freight rail service,
- an adequate and suitable level of service,
- rates and other charges,
- contracts and tariffs.
The guide also has information about resolving disputes. Disputes can be resolved through informal or formal methods.
You may also have a right to interswitching at a regulated rate. We have different resources that explain interswitching and how to make a complaint about it. For 30-kilometre interswitching, see our Disputes About Interswitching page. For LHI, see Long-Haul Interswitching: A Guide.
Resolving disputes between shippers and railway companies
Facilitation or mediation
These are the fastest way to settle a dispute and are free of charge. We have freight rail experts who are trained facilitators and mediators ready to help.
- Facilitation for disputes about federal transportation
- Mediation for disputes about federal transportation
There are two kinds of arbitration most relevant to shipping disputes:
- Service Level Arbitration (SLA) is used to resolve certain disputes about service terms.
- Final Offer Arbitration (FOA) is used for rate disputes and other issues.
For more information, visit our Arbitration page. For more on how we choose FOA arbitrators when needed, see our guide on Selecting an Arbitrator. We maintain a list of arbitrators available for FOA and SLA.
If you believe a railway is not meeting its obligations, you can use adjudication to ask for a remedy. Adjudication is a court-like process. One or more CTA Members will be your Adjudicator. They will hear both sides of the dispute and make a decision that is binding on you both. There are rules of adjudication that set out the steps and timelines everyone must follow.
For more information, visit our How adjudication works page.
We provide specific support for grain shippers through the Maximum Revenue Entitlement (MRE). The MRE limits the total amount of money (revenue) CN and CP may receive from transporting western grain. By doing this, the MRE offers grain shippers some price protection. For more information, see our MRE Guide.
Monitoring freight rail service performance
We monitor rail performance and service issues using publicly available data. We use this data and shippers' information to identify potential problems.
We have an own-motion power to investigate whether railways meet their service obligations. This tool is well-suited for addressing suspected widespread or systemic service failures.
You cannot apply for an investigation the way you can apply for arbitration or adjudication.
We don't have to wait for someone to make a formal complaint to start an investigation. But the Minister of Transport must agree the Agency should investigate the situation.
If our investigation finds that a railway is not meeting its obligations, we can order it to make remedies.
- Canada Transportation Act, Part III (Railway Transportation), Part IV (Arbitrations)
- Railway Interswitching Regulations
- Regulations on Operational Terms for Rail Level of Services Arbitrations
- Canadian Transportation Agency Rules (Dispute Proceedings and Certain Rules Applicable to All Proceedings)
- Rules of Procedure for Rail Level of Service Arbitration
- Proposed Rules of Procedure for Long-Haul Interswitching