Lawmakers Introduce Railway Safety Act of 2023

This article is taken from NGFA's March 10 newsletter.

Rail legislation introduced by Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, includes several provisions that could significantly impact rail operations.

The Railway Safety Act of 2023 introduced on March 1 aims to address several regulatory issues that have gained attention since the train derailment and hazardous chemical fire in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 3. The bill would require railroads to create disaster plans and tell emergency response commissions what hazardous materials are going through their states.

Provisions included in the bill are listed below:

• Requires shippers and rail carriers to provide advance notification of hazardous material shipments to state emergency response coordinators.

• Orders rail carriers to reduce or eliminate blocked crossings due to delays in movements.

• Authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to establish train length and weight requirements, route analysis, speed restrictions, response plans and track, bridge and rail car maintenance requirements.

• Authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to modify the safety requirements for high-hazard flammable trains.

• Authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to determine intervals and minimum time requirements when a qualified mechanical inspector will inspect rail cars.

• Authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to create an audit program for rail car inspection.

• Requires all Class Is to install hotbox detectors every 10 miles to identify hot wheel bearings and other potential points of mechanical failure.

• Requires two-person crews on all main line track.

• Increases penalties for violations of rail safety requirements.

• Requires that beginning on May 1, 2025, a rail carrier may not use DOT–111 specification railroad tank cars that do not comply with DOT–117, DOT–117P, or DOT–117R specification requirements to transport Class 3 flammable liquids.

NGFA is asking its members to share any input on the impact of these provisions on NGFA-member company operations. Contact Max Fisher with your insights on the bill. In the meantime, NGFA is working with Congress and other stakeholders to gather more information.