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Rail safety bill advances in House

May 28, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 22

Industry-supported legislation to improve rail safety was approved on May 22 by the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee's Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines & Hazardous Materials. The bill, H.R. 2095, which will be considered by the full committee after the Memorial Day recess, would boost civil penalties for rail safety violations and increase the number of federal safety inspectors. The chemical industry depends on the nation's railroads to deliver 170 million tons of products each year. Chemical shipments, which account for more than $5 billion in annual railroad freight revenues, are the second-largest railroad commodity. "We believe H.R. 2095 provides an important framework to improve safety performance for transporting these critical materials," says Martin J. Durbin, managing director of federal affairs for the American Chemistry Council, an industry group. The legislation seeks to address a leading cause of train accidents, human error due to crew fatigue, by placing stricter limits on the number of hours train crews and signalmen can work. The Association of American Railroads has criticized certain worker-fatigue provisions in the bill, claiming that the hour-of-service limits would create "intractable scheduling problems" and have other unintended negative consequences.


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