By the 1970s, decades of increasingly stringent government regulation had brought the U.S. freight railroad industry to the brink of ruin. Today, though, America’s freight railroads are the envy of the world, providing an enormous competitive advantage for U.S. businesses, huge savings for consumers, and strong support for our nation’s economy.
What brought about this change? Congress passed the Staggers Rail Act in 1980, which instituted a system of balanced regulation in the rail industry. Staggers ushered in a new era in which railroads could largely decide for themselves — rather than have Washington decide for them — what routes to use, what services to offer, and what rates to charge. Since the Staggers Act was passed, average rail rates have fallen 45%, train accident rates are down 79%, rail traffic volume has doubled, and railroads have poured more than $635 billion — their own funds, not taxpayer funds — back into their systems. Balanced, reasonable regulation works for rail customers, railroads, and America at large.