July 15, 2023

Right-leaning groups seek to pare down rail safety bill


Any rail safety bill before Congress should be “rooted in data and pass the muster of cost-benefit analysis,” and should address specific problems, according to a letter signed by over 30 groups and individuals that traditionally support conservative or libertarian economic principles.

The legislation should remove items of debatable merit, such as requiring freight trains to have at least two crew members on board, said the Thursday letter, penned by the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Rio Grande Foundation. Requiring two-person crews “ignores technology backstops and would lessen competition,” and the practice is already governed by collective bargaining, the groups said.

They also said the current bill includes an “unfathomable” number of future rulemakings related to train size and length — rulemakings that, as prescribed, would skirt the cost-benefit analysis that typically occurs with rulemakings. This includes rulemaking proposals that pertain to the transport of hazardous materials. The cost-benefit analysis is needed to ensure that railroads and shippers understand what potential costs could be involved in implementing any new rules, the groups said.

They further want regulations to incentivize the development and adoption of trackside detectors, as opposed to implementing prescriptive uses for the detectors.

“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,” the letter said.

The current bill, which passed the Senate Commerce Committee in May, mostly along party lines, is awaiting debate on the Senate floor. But there could be challenges in even getting to that stage because of disagreements among Republican senators about the bill’s contents in its current form, according to a Friday Politico article.

Other groups signing the letter include American Consumer Institute, Commonwealth Foundation, National Taxpayers Union, Forbes Media CEO Steve Forbes and former acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli, among others.

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