October 14, 1980

Staggers Rail Act Partially Deregulates Railroad Industry

After the ICC failed to move forward with deregulation, Congress passed the Staggers Rail Act. This legislation, named for Congressman Harley Staggers of West Virginia, revolutionized the business of railroads. Signed into law by President Carter, the act phased out industrywide rate-making and encouraged railroads to compete with each other as well as other modes. Railroads also were given more freedom to abandon unprofitable lines, set their own prices and tailor services that would meet specific shipper needs. They received broad authority to use contracts with shippers. For perhaps the first time since the early 1900s, railroads were able to behave like other businesses.

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John Kenefick served as Union Pacific president and chairman and CEO. He led an aggressive upgrading of UP in the 1970s and guided the company into the era of deregulation after the passage of the Staggers Act in 1980.

In 2012, Union Pacific celebrates the shared stories that have shaped our country since 1862. To mark our 150th anniversary, we invite you to explore how the nation’s largest railroad came to be and how UP continues to build America with innovation and tenacity, touching the lives of nearly every citizen.