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Senate bill aims to improve track inspections, tank-car safety


Last week, Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) introduced the Welded Rail and Tank Car Safety Improvement Act (S. 763), which would require the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to improve continuous-welded rail (CWR) inspections and increase the safety of hazardous materials-carrying tank cars.

The bill would direct the FRA to implement rules requiring track owners using CWR to improve defect inspections; require FRA inspectors to obtain copies of railroads’ most recent CWR programs to use during track inspections; and establish a program under which the administration periodically reviews railroads’ CWR inspection data and FRA inspectors’ reports.

S. 763 also would require the FRA to create a model quantifying relevant dynamic forces affecting tank cars during an accident; issue a rule establishing appropriate design standards for pressurized tank cars; and develop a program to rank tank cars according to fracture and separation risks. The bill would appropriate $1 million to the FRA in fiscal-year 2006 to carry out the requirements.

“We have seen in Texas, especially in San Antonio recently, the severe consequences of inadequate rail safety standards,” said Hutchison in a prepared statement. “This bill will initiate new rail precautions and enforce higher safety standards to protect passengers and communities that host rail traffic.”

The bill was referred to the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/18/2005