Friday, May 11, 2012

New US Rules Will Benefit Rail Freight Carriage

Government Shifts the Points on PTC Boosting Cargo Carriers
Shipping News Feature

US - Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced regulation changes governing the installation of positive train control (PTC) equipment that he said will give railroads additional flexibility and save money whilst still maintaining safety levels. PTC is a system of integrated technologies capable of preventing collisions, over-speed derailments and unintended train movements. The change affects rail freight as it renders the use of such systems irrelevant on tracks used purely for non hazardous cargo.

The move follows a call from President Obama for a review to identify Government regulations in need of change or removal as they had become redundant by way of excessive cost, being unreasonably complex or simply unnecessary. Under the revisions railroads will no longer have to conduct risk analyses to obtain approval to not install PTC or take other costly risk mitigation measures on an estimated 10,000 miles of track that will not carry passenger trains or poison inhalation hazard (PIH) commodities after December 2015.

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA) mandates widespread installation of PTC systems by December 2015 on rail lines which carry at least five million gross tons of freight annually, on Class I railroads that ship PIH commodities, and on lines where intercity passenger rail and commuter service is regularly operated. The Government estimates that the revisions are expected to save approximately $335 million over the first five years and up to $775 million over 20 years, by utilizing safety measures other than PTC, where appropriate.

Transportation staff were enthusiastic about the relaxation of what many saw as overkill at a time when transport costs are high on the agenda and the switch from road trucks to intermodal freight is a priority with Joseph C. Szabo, Administrator at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)saying:

“As a result of this review, the revised regulations will provide greater flexibility to railroads and save hundreds of millions of dollars even as they improve rail safety. The steps we are taking will continue the momentum achieved in implementing PTC.”

Ray LaHood also emphasised the Government’s intent to reduce red tape whilst ensuring safety standards were maintained commenting:

“Under President Obama’s leadership, the Department of Transportation is committed to ensuring the safety of our nation’s railroads while reducing regulatory barriers. These changes will provide significant regulatory relief, while ensuring that safety remains our highest priority.”