U.S. House Passes Recommended Railway Safety Enhancements in New Surface Transportation Bill
Rules Advocated for by Railway Supply Institute will Increase Focus on Advancing America’s Transportation System
Washington, D.C., November 6, 2015 – The new transportation bill, which was passed yesterday by the U.S. House of Representatives, included all major recommendations that had been advocated for by the Railway Supply Institute (RSI), the representing body for the railway supply industry. Critical enhancements that will improve the transportation of goods by rail in the U.S. includes new safety measures for tank cars, a review of braking solutions for trains, and additional funding for infrastructure improvements at highway rail grade crossings.
“Passage of the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act is critical to the nation’s infrastructure, economy and safety,” said Tom Simpson, president of RSI. “The bill’s approval represents many of the efforts RSI has put forth with government bodies to bring an additional level of safety to the rail industry and the motoring public.”
Within the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act, several sections will enhance infrastructure and commodities transportation in the U.S., notably language that will increase safety for tank cars carrying Class 3 flammable liquids, including crude oil and ethanol. Legacy tank cars, or DOT-111’s, will be required to be retrofitted with enhanced top fittings protections to safeguard the integrity of the tank car and its contents following a derailment.
Other key features of the Act that RSI helped secure will help advance the nation’s tank car fleet. This includes the House’s decision to require any tank car carrying flammable liquids to have thermal blankets in order to respond to a fire in the event of a derailment will help keep communities near railroads safe.
In addition, the commodity based schedule for tank car modification, similar Canada’s schedule, was adopted by the House through the bill’s passage. By changing the modification requirements of tank cars carrying Class 3 flammable liquids to commodity versus the current Department of Transportation’s (DOT) tank car rule, which does it by packing group. Under the bill, this provides certainty for all parties involved including the manufacturers, lessors, shippers and railroads.
Regarding electronically-controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes, RSI was pleased to see that the House followed the U.S. Senate’s lead by improving upon the DOT’s tank car rule. Both the House and the Senate approved a data-driven, science-based approach to study and test ECP brakes, which will help focus on technologies that advance rail transportation in a safe and effective manner.
With America’s railways able to carry additional goods and commodities on trains, RSI helped government officials understand the risks and safety concerns posed by operating heavier trucks on the nation’s highways. The House’s rejection of a congressional amendment to allow heavier trucks on highways will prevent additional damage to the transportation infrastructure, which would have created major safety and economic issues for drivers and taxpayers.
“As the representative organization for the railway supply industry, RSI knows that the safe transportation of commodities is essential, whether it’s by rail or road, and every aspect needs to be taken into consideration by the federal government. The new legislation will help the industry not only maintain, but increase its focus on advancing the safe and effective transportation of goods nationwide,” said Simpson.
In an effort to prevent collisions and deaths from accidents at railway crossings, RSI also advocated for, and received from the House, continued support of the Section 130 Highway Grade Crossing Safety Program, as well as funding for Operation Lifesaver. The Section 130 Grade Crossing Program received an important funding increase from $220 million per year up to $250 million by Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 (a $5 million per year increase beginning in FY 2016). The bill also provides crucial funding for the highway safety improvement program, which can be used for Operation Lifesaver, a non-profit organization whose mission is to end collisions, deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and on rail property through a nationwide network of volunteers who work to educate people about rail safety. RSI is a founding member of the organization.
About The Railway Supply Institute (RSI)
The Railway Supply Institute (RSI) is the international trade association for the rail supply industry, representing the nation’s leading companies involved in the manufacture of products and services in the freight car, tank car, locomotive, maintenance-of-way, communications and signaling, and passenger rail industries. America’s railway suppliers represent a $23 billion/year industry supporting 90,000 American workers.