Legislation Rail Transportation

House bill aimed at preventing catastrophic train derailments


Photo: National Transportation Safety Board

Washington — House Democrats have introduced legislation that would make changes to “how, when and where” hazardous materials are transported by railroads.

The Rail Worker and Community Safety Act (H.R. 5871) comes in response to the 1,000-plus train derailments that have occurred in the past year, including the February derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine, OH.

The bill would:

  • Mandate two-person crews on Class I railroads.
  • Ensure first responders have information on the hazardous materials involved in derailments.
  • Establish a reporting process for close calls, “similar to how airlines report close-call incidents, so problems are resolved before derailments happen.”
  • Increase funding for rail safety inspectors.
  • Mandate regulations regarding the use of wayside detection technologies, which aren’t regulated by the federal government.
  • Codify paid sick leave for rail workers, allowing them to earn up to 56 hours each year.

“The tragedy of derailments is all too common in communities across the country,” Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-NM), the bill’s sponsor, said in a press release. “In my own district in February, we had a train derailment carrying hazardous materials in Torrance County.

“Each time a derailment occurs, it not only endangers the crew, but it also impacts the safety of our communities. This legislation will help ensure catastrophic derailments never happen again.”

The bill is being considered by the House Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee, as well as the House Oversight and Accountability Committee.

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