News & Reviews News Wire Rail safety bill introduced in U.S. House

Rail safety bill introduced in U.S. House

By David Lassen | March 17, 2023

‘RAIL Act’ includes many of same provisions as legislation previously introduced in Senate

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Trains Washington Watch logoWASHINGTON — Two U.S. representatives from Ohio — Bill Johnson (R) and Emilia Sykes (D) — today introduced the Reducing Accidents in Locomotives Act, or RAIL Act, the latest legislative response to the East Palestine, Ohio, derailment.

The companion bill to the Rail Safety Act introduced earlier this month in the Senate [see “Senators propose tighter regulation …,” Trains News Wire, March 1, 2023] includes many of the same provisions. Among features of the House bill are:

— A requirement for the Secretary of Transportation to develop new safety rules based on findings of the National Transportation Safety Board from its investigation of the East Palestine, Ohio, derailment, in conjunction with the Federal Railroad Administration, including regulations on train length and weight;

— Placement of hotbox detectors every 10 miles on tracks that carry hazardous materials;

— Advanced notification for state and other emergency-response officials regarding the transportation of hazardous materials;

— Increased funding for hazardous-material training for first responders;

— Strengthened requirements regarding safety placards to help first-responders identify hazardous materials at accident sites;

— Increased penalties for safety violations by railroads.

“Public safety transcends political parties and congressional boundaries, which is why I am proud to co-lead the Rail Act — bipartisan, commonsense legislation to prevent future train derailment disasters like we have seen in East Palestine and across the United States — with Rep. Johnson,” Sykes said in a press release.

“The bipartisan RAIL Act would bring forth effective and responsible changes to the way the rail industry operates to help prevent railway accidents and keep communities across America safe,” Johnson said in a release. “I look forward to working with Rep. Sykes to get this important legislation across the finish line.”

The full text of the bill is available here.

Not included in the House version of the bill is a requirement for two-person crews, to the dismay of rail unions.

“The RAIL Act will help make the freight rail system safer for rail workers and communities like East Palestine,” said Greg Regan, president of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO. “We are committed to working with Congress on additional safety reforms. It’s shameful that rail industry lobbyists are still prioritizing profits over people by opposing commonsense measures like two-person crew requirements.”

16 thoughts on “Rail safety bill introduced in U.S. House

  1. The problem in hazmat placarding is not in the placards but in the training of the emergency responders. Placards contain one of three pieces of information: a 4-digit number, a chemical name, or a defining diagram. All three identifiers are cross referenced in the Emergency Response Guidebook which all emergency response agencies should possess. (I carry one in my car and I am retired.) Emergency actions are also spelled out as well as initial isolation distances and the contact information for Chemtrec, a hazmat incident advisory agency. This is something with which all hazmat emergency responders should become intimately familiar.

  2. Placards in English might not help much. First responders still need to consult their laptop or binder or tablet, or call it in to Dispatch, or whatever they have to do to know what to do and how hazardous. Whether they look it up by name or by number doesn’t make much difference. Sometimes its obvious if in English, like fuel oil. Most often it needs to be looked up.

  3. Until the DOJ recognizes the interlocked big stockholders of the big 6 RRs nothing can be done for safety.
    The same investor funds have voting override of management pushing all managements to lower the almighty OR leaving small shippers no service. IMO this is a monopoly plain and simple.

  4. Unfortunate two bad words on this bill. “Bi-Partisan”, which means “GOP bend over” etc. Common-sense is the other one, as in Common-sense gun control which is seizure of ALL weapons. Expect two-man crews, maybe three-man crews with cabooses to be added by the Senate. Current placards are number only; I had to go home to the desktop computer to find that 1789=hydrochloric acid. Of course hydrochloric acid was already stenciled on the tank car which was on the next track in the Sullivan MBTA station to the inbound Orange Line track. Of course no one other than me ever notices the crumbing 1973-opened overhead highway above the station! If that vinyl chloride hadn’t been burnt no one would be talking about East Palestine: so HOW did that decision come to be made?

    1. Spoken like a true NON railroader that hasn’t a clue what it’s like in the real world of railroading, one who believes and relies on information strictly from the mouths of the companies and associations who are disseminating that so called information.Everyone knows big corporations never lie and their employees are all thieves and habitual liars, at least that’s what the railroads want the easily swayed to think.All of us rails keep saying it’s not a great idea, it’s a way for the companies to make more money with less and bypass the system of checks and balances.We fall on deaf ears just as we did at the beginning of this great operating plan that PSR is. I’m sure you argued that to. There really is no convincing people with their head in the sand just how much they’re being duped by a propaganda machine that the big railroads put out there and spend millions upon millions of dollars to keep alive. You also believe derailments are down as you said in a previous article. Overall they might be but big derailments are way up guaranteed although that data I’m sure is suppressed behind lock and key so no one can get to the real facts…. That brings me back to the two man crew argument, the railroads have their so called data and so do the unions. The FRA does to and they have studies of work overload by engineers on one man trains yet that is never put out there for the public to see, suppressed I’m sure by some AAR rep. Doing more with less certainly has consequences as does relying on to much technology. Ever heard of the 737 max? Think of that when you make the argument and think that the innocent corporations are telling truths. I’m sure you’d love to fly on a max with non updated MCAS since Boeing said it wasn’t their fault it was inexperienced foreign pilots who did it ………………

  5. One additional comment They are calling this new legislation The Railroad Safety Act which is a joke. Railroads and trains are still one of the safest forms of transportation and cost effective way of moving large amounts of merchandise and goods across the country and between markets. When you compare all the trains running at any given moment of the day and what they are moving against a few derailments, those few mishaps and derailments are very small in comparison and the argument about rail safety becomes a moot point
    Joseph C. Markfelder

    1. And unfortunately the recent three wrecks possibly caused by the new NS coil cars are skewing the data.

  6. It is ironic that this is the one and only time that railroads are getting so much coverage and publicity in the news and on all media outlets and not in a favorable light. Now every little mishap and derailment is getting coverage and the general public in this country is and was totally of railroads and trains in general and how they work and the important work they do and how they deliver goods and services and are a very important piece of the supply chain in this country. Now thanks to the negative coverage that both the media and the bumblers in Washington D C are doing to tarnish and destroy all the good and importance that the railroads do the railroads are Public Enemy Number 1 and people who are ignorant of what the railroad does and has done in history and how the railroads built this country and were a very important tool and weapon of war are jumping on the bandwagon to either drown the railroads with more overhyped regulations and not give a fair and reasonable defense in the railroads favor. Instead of going ballistic and being melodramatic and over hyping things, we need to restore sanity and reason and for cooler minds to work on making adjustments and improvements but not acting in a foolish manner or using scare tactics. People need to look back in history and read up on the history of railroads and how they work and perform and not gp by all the hype, fake news and scare tactics that both social media, news outlets and our inept Congress is spreading and passing new laws and regulations that will only hinder and strangle the railroads chances for growth and their ability to right the ship or should I say the train. Like anything else in this world, and especially in transportation, mishaps, accidents derailments are going to happen and have happened but when things happen, we go to work to make things better and create new methods and solutions to the the problem. Not passing more laws or useless regulations that do more harm than good.
    Joseph C. Markfelder

    1. (Sarcasm on) The only thing Pete will do is couple up to his favorite caboose. (Sarcasm off)

      Pete has no clue. And since the Repubs only know how to shoot themselves in the foot (say “Bi-partisan), there is a strong chance the electorate will vote for a comatose conman or a cackling kamaleon in 2024. Clueless Pete will be safe for at least six years.

      That is the world of politics these days. Up is Down. Good is Bad. Thinking is Bad. Kool-aide is Gooood. Unfortunately, the railroads, in their zeal for the lowest possible OR, have placed themselves right smack in the middle of it.

      Granted, CSX and NS made some attempts to turn the ship around. However, a large ship has inertia and takes a while to turn with a course correction. NS grazed an iceberg. Whether it can stay afloat, only time will tell. Will the new CSX Captain see the berg and make course corrections? Only time will tell. Will the Captain of the SS UP (SS, sinking ship?) see the berg and make course correction, or keep on the same course straight for the berg, hit it head on, and swirl down the drain like the Titanic? (Remember, that “unsinkable” ship. The SS UP has been around since 1869. Has hubris corroded its hull a little bit?)

      Either way, get your popcorn, grab your seats, and buckle in tight. It’s going to be a wild ride.

  7. “A requirement for the Secretary of Transportation to develop new safety rules based on findings of the National Transportation Safety Board from its investigation of the East Palestine”

    Given this Sec of Transportation…that simply is NOT going to happen. He’ll stall, obfuscate, and flat-out lie to avoid it. All while blaming the previous administration for doing so.

    1. By the time the NTSB releases it’s findings, there’s a good chance we will have a new Secretary of Transportation in office. It takes the NTSB 2 years to release a final report, that is well after the 2024 elections and a new government in office.

  8. I’m trying to figure out how exactly they are going to improve placarding of hazardous materials.

    1. Add plain English names to the placards, or an extra set of placards that has a label of the exact hazardous commodity onboard the rail car?

  9. If they are not careful, they will end up pushing all these hazardous materials onto the highways in trucks. That’ll make everything safer (SARCASM). I hope these “smart” legislature fellars are planning on adding all the additional safety standards to the trucking industry as well.

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