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Rail News Home Federal Legislation & Regulation

June 2007

Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

'Sweeping' bill enters House, elicits support from rail labor unions, shippers


New legislation that proposes to bring sweeping reforms to rail safety regulations and rename the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) garnered support from rail labor unions and shippers last month.

Introduced by Reps. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and Corrine Brown (D-Fla.)

May 1, the Federal Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2007 (H.R. 2095) proposes to re-designate the FRA as the Federal Railroad Safety Administration (FRSA) and require the agency to double the number of safety inspectors from 400 to 800 by Dec. 31, 2011.

In addition, the bill would mandate fatigue management programs, amend the Hours of Service Act, strengthen whistleblower protections, push positive train control implementation, improve dark territory and grade crossing safety, establish rail worker training standards and require conductor certification.

H.R. 2095 is backed by several rail labor unions, including the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), United Transportation Union, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen and American Train Dispatchers Association.

“Many of the items contained in this [bill] have been on rail labor’s most-wanted list for many years,” said BLET National President Don Hahs in a prepared statement.

Shippers back bill
Several rail shipper organizations and lobbying groups support the bill, too, including Consumers United for Rail Equity, the Alliance for Rail Competition and American Chemistry Council (ACC).

H.R. 2095 would require “positive train control, warnings in non-signaled territory and enhanced track inspection, [which], in addition to the bill’s treatment of employee fatigue, will significantly enhance rail safety,” said ACC Managing Director of Federal Affairs Martin Durbin in a statement.

FRA officials declined to comment on the legislation. However, the agency issued a statement stressing the FRA’s safety achievements since the U.S. Department of Transportation unveiled a National Rail Safety Action Plan in May 2005.

The FRA published a proposed rule aimed at reducing the number of human factor-caused train accidents; launched a pilot project to enable yard workers to anonymously report near-miss incidents; issued a final report on rail worker fatigue research; acquired and deployed two additional automated track inspection vehicles; accelerated research on tank cars’ structural integrity; and addressed private crossing safety.

By year’s end, the FRA also expects to issue a final rule addressing human factor-caused train accidents and complete tank-car safety research.


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