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WHY THIS MATTERS: A swollen government state, antiquated federal rules and non-transparent processes regularly stifle innovation and growth across economic sectors.
AAR POLICY POSITION: Instilling good government principles, transparency, complete and sound science, and embracing performance-based regulations where possible.
Tremendous advances have happened in railroad design, preventative maintenance and safety technology since the rail industry was partially deregulated more than thirty years ago. Railroads continue to keep pace with an evolving digital world, but prescriptive safety regulations often lock the rail industry into outdated, redundant and costly practices that stifle innovation.
As policymakers look to improve regulatory processes, freight railroads propose the following principles for how the FRA should create smart regulations moving forward:
Here are just a few examples of current or proposed regulations that make it harder for the freight rail industry to invest in new safety technologies.
Regulation: Railroads must inspect brakes in specific ways at rigid timeframes based on FRA standards that were last updated in 1982.
The Solution: The FRA should modify the regulation to a performance-based standard that allows railroads to use technology that keeps trains in service, identifies problems based on science and improves employee safety.
Regulation: FRA regulations require retroreflective sheeting (the yellow strips on the sides of trains that help motorists see them at night) be replaced every ten years, regardless of their condition.
No demonstrated need: AAR and Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) tested retroreflective sheeting on 920 freight cars and 120 locomotives and found that the performance depends more on the condition and cleanliness of the material than the date it was applied. Data show that after more than nine years in service the material remains in good condition and doesn't need to be replaced if it continues to be properly maintained.
High cost, low benefit: The estimated cost to replace the retroreflectivity strips on 84,000 rail cars is $23.6 million, not including cost of staging and out-of-service time.
Better technology is available: Under a current waiver, railroads are developing a performance- based alternative to the regulation that would use a "retroreflectometer" to measure the condition of the material so that it can be replaced when needed, not arbitrarily. This is a well-established performance-based method the Federal Highway Administration currently uses.
The Solution: The FRA should modify the regulation to a performance-based standard to prevent needless costly replacements and allow the railroads to use technology to determine need instead of a rigid timeline.