Earlier this month, as a response to the derailment of
freight train in East Palestine, OH, Sen Brown (D,OH) and Sen Vance (R,OH)
introduced S 576, the Railway Safety Act of 2023. The bill provides a variety
of potential improvements for the shipment of hazardous materials by rail.
Various funds are authorized to support some of the program proposed.

Programs and policies mentioned in the bill include:

requirements for trains transporting hazardous materials.

car inspections.


Freight Act of 2023(minimum crew size).

maximum civil penalties for violations of rail safety regulations.

tank cars.

materials training for first responders.

safety infrastructure research and development grants.

for tank car research and development.

Moving Forward

While Brown is not a member of the Senate Commerce, Science,
and Transportation Committee to which this bill was assigned for consideration,
Vance is. This means that there could be sufficient influence to see this bill
considered by Committee. There is a great deal of political pressure to ‘do
something’ to prevent recurrences of the East Palestine derailment, but there is
still some major Republican opposition to increased regulation and government
spending. There will have to be some behind the scene negotiations on
modifications to this bill to get to legislation that would allow the Committee
and then the Senate to move forward.


The new
hazmat train requirements
of §3 of the bill looks like it may have the
unintended consequence of encouraging railroads to limit the transport hazmat
railcars to hazmat trains that would fall under the definition of a highly
hazardous flammable train (HHFT) under 49
USC 174.310
. Under the proposed rules, it looks like there could be tighter
restrictions on non-HHFT hazmat trains, so it would provide railroads with an
incentive to concentrate hazmat shipments in HHFT’s. This might reduce the
number of trains carrying hazmat railcars, but it could increase the potential
consequences of an accident in such a train.


For more details about the provisions of this bill, see my
article at CFSN Detailed Analysis – https://patrickcoyle.substack.com/p/s-576-introduced
– subscription required.

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Author Of this post: PJCoyle

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