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At the same time, the Department's bill would create a new FederalState relationship, in that it would authorize the Secretary to utilize the services of State agencies and to reimburse them for their role in the inspection and surveillance necessary to insure safe railroad operations. Under the Department's bill, Federal and State interest in rail safety would become one of joint concern and joint action.
BACKGROUND OF THE PROPOSED LEGISLATION Against this background, a review of our current railroad safety program led us to conclude that the expanded authority being proposed here was in order. Train accidents have been going up in most areas not covered by our program; but have been relatively constant in those which are. Our field inspections show a slow but steady increase in the percentage of equipment found defective. Our overall authority is limited with regard to the important causative factors in railroad safety. State programs are few and of limited coverage.
Thus, we began late last fall to draft the legislation which is now before you. By February, we were satisfied that a bill such as that which we are now proposing could do the necessary job.
So, we were not surprised when the Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board wrote me on April 3 of this year to say that their review shows that the railroad accident picture “is extremely serious." After noting the trends toward higher speeds and heavier trains, he also concluded that unless the accident problem was arrested, “*** consideration should be given to supporting or proposing Federal legislation which would provide additional safety regulatory authority for the Department of Transportation in the railroad safety field.”
This reinforced our decision to go ahead with the legislation which we now have brought before you.
DISCUSSION OF PROPOSED LEGISLATION
Let me go on to highlight the more important features of H.R. 16980.
It would repeal most of the present limited and highly specific rail safety statutes enacted over the past 75 years. It would provide in their place a modern, comprehensive statute similar to the aviation, motor vehicle, and highway safety laws. It would give the Secretary of Transportation broad and flexible authority to prescribe regulations to assure the safety of railroad operations for both railroad employees and the public.
To prevent a lapse of existing safety regulations, the bill provides that within 90 days after enactment the Secretary shall adopt as interim regulations the specific safety requirements prescribed in or under the statutes it repeals. The bill further provides that these interim standards are to remain in effect for 2 years unless changed or repealed by the Secretary.
This measure would provide a wide range of penalties to help assure compliance with all safety regulations. It would impose civil penalties of $250 to $1,000 for failure to comply with safety standards, rules and regulations, or for failure to cooperate in the recordkeeping and inspection requirements prescribed by the Secretary. It would
also provide a criminal penalty of up to $10,000 and 1 year's imprisonment, or both, for knowing and willful violations.
The bill also authorizes the Secretary to obtain injunctive relief to enforce safety standards, rules and regulations. It further requires, however, that whenever practicable the Secretary give prior notice to violators to give them an opportunity to come into compliance.
The bill authorizes the States to regulate in specified areas, in a manner that is not in conflict with Federal regulations. These areas include vertical and horizontal clearance requirements, grade crossing protection, the speed and audible signals of trains while operating within urban or other densely populated areas and the installation or removal of industrial and spur tracks.
The bill further provides that other State laws relating to rail safety will continue in force for 2 years following enactment of this bill, unless sooner superseded by the courts, State action, or regulations issued by the Secretary.
Under the bill, the Secretary is authorized to contract with State agencies for the provision of inspection and surveillance services necessary to the enforcement of Federal safety regulations. Reimbursement of State costs may be made from appropriations available for carrying out the rail safety program.
OTHER PENDING RAILROAD SAFETY BILLS In addition to this bill which the Department of Transportation has proposed, there are three other bills before Congress that deal with railroad safety.
They are H.R. 5934, a bill that would broaden Federal authority over rail safety by supplementing existing statutes with administrative rules and regulations; H.R. 5935, which would increase the penalties assessed under existing statutes; and H.R. 5245, which would amend the Hours of Service Act.
In drafting the Department's bill, we studied both H.R. 5934 and H.R. 5935 carefully. We concluded that they did not go far enough to create the flexibility we believe necessary to improve the rail safety record. Thus, while the bill proposed here embodies the changes sought in those two earlier bills, it is more comprehensive and self-contained.
The third bill, H.R. 5245, is in a special category. This bill would amend the present Hours of Service Act so as to reduce the maximum hours a railroad operating employee could work without rest from the present 16 to 12 hours and the maximum hours a telegraphic or dispatching employee could work from the present 13 down to 11 hours.
Many members of this committee will recall that the House Subcommittee on Transportation and Aeronautics held extensive hearings on a similar bill in the 89th Congress. The committee did not report out a bill, and H.R. 5245 was introduced in the first session of the 90th Congress. No additional hearings have been held in the House or Senate, and to my knowledge there has been no committee action on the measure.
The Hours of Service Act is unique among transportation safety laws, in that it prescribes by statute the maximum number of hours an employee can work. Only the Congress can change these requirements. The impact of any such changes upon both employee earnings and carrier operations further complicates the matter.
We have not included the Hours of Service Act among those statutes to be replaced by the general authority proposed in the present bill. Our decision here was predicated in part upon the advice which the Interstate Commerce Commission furnished this committee to the effect that it was unable to establish any direct relationship between railroad accidents and the hours of service limitation. When and if we can show that the present hours of service limitation plays some significant part in railroad accident experience, we will then recommend appropriate changes in the law to the Congress.
PUTTING THE NEW AUTHORITY TO WORK It should also be clearly understood here that the statutory language which we are proposing would not in itself create any specific regulations. Those regulations currently in force would be continued on an interim basis. We would develop any new or changed regulations only in accordance with the rulemaking processes which are provided for under the Administrative Procedure Act. Thus, no new regulations would go into effect until all interested parties were given an opportunity to participate in their development,
The enactment of this legislation will require the prompt initiation of rulemaking in three major areas. First and foremost, we would move to review the interim regulations and reissue regulations to replace them. This would insure that there was no lapse in our accident reporting procedures or in our locomotive, safety appliances, and signals and train control inspection programs.
Our second important job would be to reveiw any areas of State regulation which were preempted by this legislation and to develop and put into effect Federal regulations in their stead. Our current thinking is that this would require immediate consideration of standards for track inspection procedures and the operation of track motorcars.
Our third job, and one which would predictably extend over a period of years, would be to explore those areas wherein no regulation, either State or Federal, now exists and to initiate rulemaking in all such areas significant from a safety standpoint.
Our current thinking here is that we would first turn our attention to safety standards in the design of passenger-carrying equipment; next, to inspection and maintenance procedures for freight car wheels and running gear; and, finally, to train operating rules and practices.
We are unable at this point to determine what our total staff requirements for this work will be. Neither can we predict closely the level of Federal support required by the State programs authorized by this legislation.
For this reason we did not include in our bill any specific dollar limits on appropriations. Our bill is at variance in this respect with the committee bill, and we would recommend that section 14 of our bill replace section 14 in the committee bill.
In all of this, it should be understood that the main thrust of this bill is the safety of railroad employees and the public in the operation of the railroads, employees and the public in the operation of the railroads, not employee health per se or what might more generally be thought of as industrial safety.
These latter areas fall more logically within the expertise of other State and Federal agencies. As you know, there is pending before the
Select Subcommittee on Labor of the House of Representatives H.R. 14816, which has as its purpose the extension of Federal authority in the employee health and industrial safety areas. Our bill has a different focus.
CLOSING COMMENT In proposing this new legislation to the Congress, Secretary Boyd has pointed out that* * * the Department does not suggest that the railroad industry is insensitive to its responsibility for safe operations. As with other transportation modes, however, cost and competitive pressures can frequently work at cross-purposes to safety. The cost of greater safety will be borne reluctantly unless it is a burden which falls evenly on each member of the industry. Uniform Federal regulation is the only way the industry can be assured of this.
Those of us who have been associated with the rail industry need not be reminded of the hazards in railroad operations. We can all remember the fellow workers who lost their lives on the job. While we can argue endlessly about rail safety statistics, a simple truth stands out from them: Moving railroad equipment is dangerous.
There is much more to be accomplished in rail safety. The record has not improved. The railroad industry has yet to come completely to grips with its safety problem.
At the same time, we are aware of the possible adverse impact which carelessly drawn or enforced safety regulations can have upon our common carrier railroad industry. We are aware that the railroadswhich are the backbone of our freight transportation system—have suffered from a record of unstable earnings and have not shared significantly in the recent growth of the economy. This has undoubtedly had its impact on railroad safety.
So we are aware that even as we propose this step forward in the safety of railroad operations, we at the Department of Transportation have a long job ahead of us in finding and recommending to the Congress ways in which to assure that the railroad industry will be able to remain financially viable and thus be able to realize its full potential for service to the public.
We are not proposing a punitive program of railroad safety regulation. Our intention, rather, is to build a system of regulations and a program of enforcement—a program which will include very importantly the assistance of a maximum number of State governmentsthat can improve the overall efficiency of our railroad system as it improves its safety performance. Our role here is more that of an "outside auditor” working in cooperation with the railroad industry than that of a policeman engaged in the mere pursuit of wrongdoers.
We think, moreover, that the record of accomplishment in those areas wherein we already regulate the safety of operations speaks for itself.
Mr. Chairman, that completes my statement on this legislation. With your permission, I should like to ask that the statistical attachments to this statement be made part of the record.
I shall, of course, be most happy to answer any questions which you or the members of your committee may have.
The CHAIRMAN. The charts and statistical attachments will be made a part of the record.
(The documents referred to are as follows:)