Media Kit » Try RailPrime™ Today! »
Progressive Railroading
Newsletter Sign Up
Stay updated on news, articles and information for the rail industry

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

View Current Digital Issue »


Rail News Home Rail Industry Trends


Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Congress reaches compromise agreement on rail safety reauthorization bill


Yesterday, House and Senate conferees reached a compromise agreement on a rail safety reauthorization bill that would limit hours of service, reduce workers' limbo time, tighten training standards, require conductor certification and mandate installation of positive train control (PTC) on lines used for passenger trains and to move hazardous materials no later than 2015, according to the United Transportation Union (UTU).

The bill, which would reauthorize the federal rail safety program through 2011, would enable the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to regulate rail workers' hours of service, providing the agency that authorization for the first time.

The legislation would replace hours-of-service laws first enacted in 1907 with comprehensive, scientifically based regulations to address worker fatigue, the FRA said. The laws — which set the maximum on-duty or minimum off-duty hours for train crews, dispatchers and signal maintainers — would now be set by the FRA, much like hours-of-service standards established for airline pilots and truck drivers. A FRA Railroad Safety Advisory Committee including rail management, labor representatives and other key stakeholders would develop recommendations on new hours-of-service limits.

"Railroads must be more accountable for the safety of their operations and rail employees need work schedules that reduce fatigue and promote safety," said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Boardman in a prepared statement.

The bill also would mandate the establishment of risk reduction programs and require states and railroads to update the National Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Inventory on a regular basis. The proposed legislation also would expand the FRA's authority to disqualify any individual as unfit for safety-sensitive service for violating federal regulations related to transporting hazardous materials.

Railroads had been lobbying to block a PTC-installation mandate supported by rail labor, but embraced the House and Senate compromise because the Rail Collision Prevention Act (S. 3493) recently introduced by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) would mandate PTC installation on most rail routes and as early as 2012 rather than by 2015 and just on passenger and haz-mat lines as proposed in the compromise agreement, the UTU said.

The compromise agreement now goes before the House and Senate for separate votes.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/24/2008