Issue Date: October 22, 2007
House Approves Railroad Safety Bill
The House approved legislation last week that would nearly double the number of federal rail safety inspectors and limit the number of hours train crews may work. The Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2007 (H.R. 2095), sponsored by House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), authorizes $1.1 billion in funding for the Federal Railroad Administration over four years, reorganizes the agency, and renames it the Federal Railroad Safety Administration. The bill sets a goal of having 800 safety inspectors and enforcement personnel on the job by December 2011, up from the current 421. It also requires 10 hours of rest for railroad workers during a 24-hour period, prohibits shifts longer than 12 hours, and mandates one day off per week. Fatigue, caused by lengthy assignments and irregular scheduling, has been cited as a contributing factor in many recent rail accidents. The American Chemistry Council endorses the legislation, saying enhanced track inspection and the bill's treatment of employee fatigue "will significantly enhance rail safety." Shipments of chemical products account for more than $5 billion in annual railroad freight revenues. The Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee passed a similar railroad safety bill (S.1889) last month.
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