Freight Rail Policy Stance: In the 21st Century, freight railroads require a modernized approach to federal regulations that allows them to innovate with new technologies and processes for an even safer and more efficient rail network.
Why This Matters: The current regulatory approach is largely prescriptive and does not easily allow for the incorporation of the best technologies to improve safety and performance.
Today’s railroads are a safety success story.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, 2017 rail safety statistics continue a string of record-setting years, showing this period has been the safest ever for the rail sector.
The railroads’ improving financial health — not excessive regulation — helps make this network safety record possible. Financial health brings with it the ability to invest in improving and maintaining rail infrastructure, as well as to develop new technologies and approaches that enhance safety and deliver meaningful results. Running a safe railroad is good business; the high cost of even one derailment is a heavy enough incentive for railroads to operate with safety as a top priority.
However, the current safety regulatory approach has resulted in a huge cost to railroads and their customers. While excessive economic regulation was curtailed by the 1980 Staggers Act, operational regulation of the railroads has worsened. Analysis of FRA data indicates the railroad industry’s regulatory paperwork costs have increased by more than 500% over the last 30 years, an annual burden of $1.7 billion.
Railroads urge the government to embrace an approach to safety regulation that appropriately holds the industry accountable for its safety performance, while at the same time enabling and incentivizing it to develop even safer and more efficient practices and approaches.