WASHINGTON, D.C. – May 10, 2023 – Today, the Senate Commerce Committee voted to advance the Railway Safety Act (S. 576), which aims to improve rail safety. Before the legislation is considered on the Senate floor, AAR and its member railroads urge policymakers to continue refining the legislation to ensure the bill is focused on solution-driven polices that will measurably enhance safety.
“Committee negotiations on the Rail Safety Act have yielded substantive improvements that advance stakeholders’ shared goal – enhancing rail safety, supporting first responders and keeping our communities safe,” said AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies. “Railroads support items of this bill and remain fully committed to working with the Committee and all members of the Senate to build on these improvements, with the ultimate goal of ensuring all provisions result in meaningful data-driven safety advancements that all can support.”
“At the same time, challenges remain with certain provisions, including those that mandate crew staffing models, expand hazmat transportation operating requirements, micromanage detector networks, and unnecessarily broaden manual inspections. In a piece of safety legislation, each provision should be clearly designed to rectify a current safety challenge. As reported out of the Committee, this bill falls short of that goal. That said, while railroads continue to advance industry-wide safety commitments, AAR and its members will continue to work with Congress to address the remaining obstacles and advance smart policies.”
The Commerce Committee has been committed to taking a risk-based approach when it comes to defining what constitutes a high hazard train. At the same time, more work remains to ensure the rulemaking proceedings contemplated in the legislation are driven by data, focused on safety and avoid unintended negative consequences for the supply chain.
Over the last 30 years, railroads have voluntarily developed and deployed wayside detectors, which continuously monitor and assess the health and safety of the equipment. These detectors have enhanced safety by allowing railroads to identify defects traditional inspections cannot, and FRA research confirms this fact. This technology was developed because industry identified a problem and invested in a solution.
If stakeholders’ goal is to drive continuous improvement in rail safety, the industry must be able to continue innovating just as it did decades ago to develop today’s wayside detectors. While the current legislation is less prescriptive than originally considered, conversations must continue to ensure the bill encourages future safety technological advancements.
Complementing wayside inspection technologies, visual inspections are an important part of ensuring the health and integrity of rail cars and locomotives across the rail network. Any changes to the current inspection regime must remain focused on checking safety-critical components and improving safety outcomes rather than impeding the network or advancing unrelated policy goals.
For more information, contact: AAR Media Relations at [email protected] or 202-639-2345.
About AAR: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) is the world’s leading railroad policy, research and technology organization focusing on the safety and productivity of rail carriers. AAR members include the major freight railroads of the U.S., Canada and Mexico, as well as Amtrak. Learn more at www.aar.org.