Coalition Letter Expressing Concern with “Railway Safety Act”

By at 13 July, 2023, 1:04 pm

Dear Members of Congress:

The undersigned individuals write to express concerns with the Railway Safety Act (S. 576). Safety advancement in any mode of transportation, including U.S. freight railroading, is critical; but public policy should be written to address specific problems. It should be rooted in data and pass the muster of cost-benefit analysis.

While the legislation that cleared the Senate Commerce Committee is better than the original bill introduced in March, it still includes far too many prescriptive policies, unduly favors organized labor, and would unduly empower unelected bureaucrats. This is why it garnered the support of just two Republicans on the Committee.

Sen. Ted Cruz, ranking member of the Commerce Committee, and energy experts have also outlined how the bill would disrupt domestic energy production, while the agriculture, propane, and intermodal transportation industries, to name a few, remain opposed.

The most glaring issues with the legislation include the following:

The bill seeks to mandate that large railroads maintain two-person crews – the current standard set by voluntary collective bargaining – in perpetuity. Public policy groups have opposed this measure, also being pursued by the Biden administration’s Department of Transportation, because it is unneeded, ignores technology backstops, and would lessen competition. Two may seem better than one, and perhaps two will be the voluntary standard into the future, but lawmakers should not cement this into law, especially not in reaction to a February train derailment that included a three-member crew. Railroads should have the flexibility to adjust their operations in the future. This measure is likely why Sen. John Thune (R-SD) called the bill a “stalking horse for onerous regulatory mandates and union giveaways.”

The largest section of the bill deals with the movement of hazardous materials, triggering an unfathomable number of future rulemakings pertaining to issues such as train size. As currently written, these rulemakings would avoid cost-benefit analysis (CBA). Conservatives have long championed the need for CBA because no human activity is 100% safe 100% of the time. Every activity involves some form of CBA. New railroad safety laws should certainly require them, including a survey of the likely risks created as railroads and shippers alter procedures to mitigate the cost of the new rules.

Lastly, the bill also includes prescriptions on the use of trackside detectors, which exist today not because of regulatory wisdom but market innovation. Rather than dictate expansion of these proven technologies, government policies should seek to incentivize their evolution and adoption. Time and time again, when the federal government locks into a single technology the public suffers as industry lacks the flexibility or incentive to pursue next-generation technologies.

Railroads are crucial for the efficient running of the nation’s supply chain. That makes it all the more important that Congress pursue wise, cost-effective policies that benefit the entire nation, as opposed to ones that primarily aid a few well-placed special interests. Congress needs to avoid rushed policymaking that caters to special interests rather than addressing the issues at hand in a thoughtful, cost-effective manner.


Iain Murray, Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute

Sean Higgins, Research Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute

Paul J. Gessing, President, Rio Grande Foundation

James L. Martin, Founder/Chairman, 60 Plus Association

John Shelton, Policy Advisor, Advancing American Freedom

Saul Anuzis, President, American Association of Senior Citizens

Steve Pociask, President and CEO, American Consumer Institute

Richard Manning, President, Americans for Limited Government

Brent Gardner, Chief Government Affairs Officer, Americans for Prosperity

John Hart, Executive Director, C3 Action (Conservative Coalition for Climate Solutions Action)

Garrett Ballengee, Executive Director, Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy

Ryan Ellis, President, Center for a Free Economy

Timothy H. Lee, Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs, Center for Individual Freedom

Roslyn Layton, Co-Founder, China Tech Threat

Matthew Kandrach, President, Consumer Action for a Strong Economy

Nathan A. Benefield, Senior Vice President, Commonwealth Foundation

Hon. Kenneth “Ken” Cuccinelli II, Former VA Attorney General, Former Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security

Benjamin R. Dierker, Executive Director, Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure*

Steve Forbes, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, Forbes Media

Adam Brandon, President, FreedomWorks

George Landrith, President, Frontiers of Freedom

Cameron Sholty, Executive Director, Heartland Impact

James Taylor, President, Heartland Institute

David R. Henderson, Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Tom Giovanetti, President, Institute for Policy Innovation

Andrew Langer, Founder, Institute for Regulatory Analysis and Engagement

Ike Brannon, Senior Fellow, Jack Kemp Foundation

Alfredo Ortiz, President & CEO, Job Creators Network

Brett Healy, President, The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy

Drew Cline, President, Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy (NH)

Patrick McLaughlin, Senior Research Fellow, Dir. of Policy Analytics, Mercatus Center at George Mason University*

Matthew Gagnon, CEO, Maine Policy Institute

Charles Sauer, President, Market Institute

Douglas Carswell, President and CEO, Mississippi Center for Public Policy

Brandon Arnold, Executive Vice President, National Taxpayers Union

Marcos Lopez, Outreach & Coalitions Director, Nevada Policy Research Institute

Daniel J. Erspamer, CEO, Pelican Institute for Public Policy

Karen Kerrigan, President & CEO, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

David Williams, President, Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Mike Gallagher, Vice President, Washington Policy Center

Carol Platt Liebau, President, Yankee Institute

*Affiliation for Identification Purposes Only

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