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In looking at Interstate Commerce Commission's official statistics, we find that there have been no train or train service accidents which caused casualties betwen 1961 and 1966, the last year for which these statistics were available.
This, then, is one area of railroad safety which the Secretary of Transportation expressly wishes be covered by pending legislation, but is an area where there is no need for regulation as is demonstrably indicated here.
No law enacted for the regulation of railroad bridges would have the slightest justification, but that is exactly what this bill would do. We consider that in this respect, the bill is a clear example of regulation for its own sake. It can't be justified.
It is sometimes argued that if existing safety in such an area is good, then regulation cannot be burdensome. In the first place, this is not so. The railroads had a superb record of power brake safety prior to adoption of the Power Brake Act of 1958. The act was adopted anyway. To this day, almost 10 years later, the railroads have been unable to obtain a single change in the rules adopted at that time despite the need for many changes dictated by experience and the advance of technology.
This is an extreme example of the inflexibility that always inheres in governmental regulation of safety.
Second, this argument is nothing more than support for regulation as an end in itself. Those who make it do not ask "why should this law be passed ?" They ask only "Why not?”
Let me take another example of a part of railroading that the Secretary has said in so many words that he needs to regulate: the matter of car wheels and axles. We can show the frequency of derailments in train accidents ascribed to car wheels and axles by the Commission and it is perhaps appropriate that we do so, since the Secretary in his letter of transmittal has twice stressed the significance of wheel axle failures and their contribution to derailments.
The precise figures for the last 10 years will be presented by a later witness who will discuss the statistical aspects of our case. These figures show that in 1966 (the latest year for which complete statistics are available) the rate of derailments in train accidents attributed to defects in wheels and axles, as measured by either ton-miles or carmiles, was lower than in all but one of the 9 years, 1957 to 1965, , inclusive.
This is a measure of success on the part of railroads--not failure of the kind that demands legislation.
This success is no accident. It results in large part from the railroads own efforts, in collaboration with their employees and their suppliers, to improve the situation. A dramatic demonstration of the effectiveness of our own efforts can be found in the statistics on hotboxes in recent years.
"Hotbox” is a colloquial word for an overheated axle bearing which happens in transit because of insufficient lubrication, excessive friction, or both.
In 1957 statistics collected by the AAR's Mechanical Division from member roads showed that on the average during that year member roads ran only 182,000 miles between hotbox setoffs; that is to say, cars that had to be taken out of a train and put to one side for repairs.
In every year since then, average mileage between setoffs has in
creased, until in 1967 it had attained 1,828,000 miles, a record 10 times better than that of only 11 years ago. This marked improvement resulted directly from improvements in the design, lubrication, inspection, and care (including the use of detection devices) devoted to journal bearings. It was done cooperatively among the railroads themselves, with the assistance of railroad suppliers and car builders, not by any Government directive.
This program was not free: it has cost many millions of dollars for railroad research and its implementation in this area alone; and, when we found the solution, the AAR made it compulsory that it be put into effect over the Nation's railroads.
I speak of the changeover from waste to journal pads, and friction bearings. Railroad research to further improve the record is still continuing
This is another area where railroads have proved their own ability to increase and promote safety by their own efforts.
Our attention within the industry has not been limited to bridges and hotboxes, two of the areas to which specific emphasis has been given by the Secretary in his letter.
During recent years additional millions of dollars have been expended in acquiring equipment which will permit safe and more efficient operation. Among such items (all of which will be found on the Northern Pacific) we must include wide load detectors, broken flange and loose wheel detectors, dragging equipment detectors, high water detectors, mud and rock detector fences, radios, and various types of track cleaning equipment.
We have rail detector cars in operation 12 months a year. From our analysis of accident causes, we have recognized the need for continuing education and testing of all employees on operating rules and procedures. Our safety department is rapidly expanding its program. We are fully aware of our responsibilities to our employees, our patrons, our passengers and the public; every effort is being expended to improve our mode of operation in order that we might provide more efficient and safer service.
I do not wish to be selective in discussing railroad safety so as to speak of only the better elements of our record.
Let me, therefore, speak of derailments that come about through failure of track, a subject which concerns our industry seriously at this time and all the time. This is because accidents of this kind have increased in recent years.
The AAR's Mechanical and Engineering Divisions have worked hard to determine causes and suggest cures for this increase. So have the managements and the responsible officers of every member road.
Although improvements have been and are being made, a complete solution has not been found. This suggests that both causes and cures in this instance are not easy to determine and are both multiple and complex.
We would welcome the assistance of the Department of Transportation in our effort at analysis; but we do not believe that rules which the Department might promulgate could in themselves provide any cure. We have had a good deal of criticism in recent months concerning these derailments both from railway labor and from the Government: but most critics have done no more than to urge that this legislation or legislation like it be enacted as a cure-all.
In short, the pressing need in this area now is analysis of the problem in order to determine what should be done. If only a small part of the funds that I suppose would be required to implement this bill could be devoted to research on track failures, I believe that real progress could be made. I feel confident that the industry will solve the problem in time, unaided.
Cooperation of the Government could shorten that time. Passage of this bill will, in my opinion, contribute nothing to that end. What we need from the Government is cooperation, not accusation or ill-founded legislation.
Much of the claimed justification for this bill seems to rest in the record of "train accidents" which have taken place since 1961. The Secretary mentions this matter in his letter of transmittal, and it was also the subject of a widely publicized letter dated April 3 from the Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, Mr. O'Connell, directed to the Federal Railroad Administrator, Mr. Lang.
The facts stated in Mr. O'Connell's letter are correct as far as they go, but both they and the summary statement made by the Secretary create a misleading picture of railroad safety. Both Mr. O'Connell and the Secretary discuss statistics relating to "train accidents," a highly specialized category. It is a very easy matter, however, for uniformed persons to translate the facts as to “train accidents” into broad statements concerning “railroad accidents.” This, the press has already done.
Although casualties can be and are caused by "train accidents," a simple comparison of the number of "train accidents” or even their frequency does not necessarily tell anything about the casualty experience.
More details will be set forth in the testimony of the statistical witness who will follow me. I may say at this point that the category of “train accidents” is both unique and not necessarily related to casualties. It was devised long ago by the Interstate Commerce Commission.
A "train accident” has been defined since January 1, 1957, as any accident involving the operation of trains which results in damage to railroad property exceeding $750, excluding cost of clearing wreck.
Under this definition, many train accidents can and do occur without death or injury to any person and without damage to freight. The sole criterion is the monetary damage to railroad property. And in these days, we can't even get a car off the track for less than $750.
Another peculiarity of this classification in a time of rising prices is its adherence to a flat dollar amount of damage. The amount has not been increased since 1957. It is common knowledge that the cost of living, and the cost of railroad property along with it, has increased substantially in the last 11 years. The increase in "train accidents” during these years is therefore in part attributable to inflation—an accident "cause" that passage of this bill cannot affect in the slightest.
The facts as to the railroads' safety record will be set before you by a later witness. I may put the matter in perspective, however, if I point out that the preliminary data for 1967 shows deaths in U.S. railroad accidents down 8.4 percent in that year as compared with 1966, and injuries down 5.3 percent. What in this improvement requires this legislation that is premised on supposed failure in safety? The Secretary's letter of transmittal also mentions, seemingly as justification for this bill, that the bill is comparable to existing legislation governing the safety practices of our competitors. This is a plausible comparison, but it is one that does not take account of all the relevant facts.
Let us consider a truck company that is regulated by the Department in safety matters. The trucker has no rails and no roadbed to maintain. His right-of-way is maintained completely by public authority. He has no bridges to inspect or to rate. The bridges he uses are all maintained by public authority, and supported by taxpayers.
He has no signals to install or maintain. Traffic signals and signs are provided for him by the public. It is true that his vehicles must be inspected-but not nearly so thoroughly as are locomotives.
The superficial resemblance between safety regulation of the two kinds of carriers, therefore, disappears when these things are considered. The situation with respect to airlines and water carriers is closely similar.
Their “roadbeds," their "signals," and even their terminals are provided by the public. Adoption of this legislation, therefore, would not in fact put railroads on any parity in this respect with competing modes of transportation.
On the contrary, it would place under regulation vast areas of railroading which do not even exist in the case of other carriers. Railroads, I submit, are overregulated now-there is no need for this further regulation.
The railroad industry would welcome investigation of its safety practices by the Department or any other agency of the Government. It would cooperate actively in any such effort and would seek to enlist the equal participation of railway labor.
One example of our efforts at cooperation may be mentioned. In August 1967, the Department of Transportation announced a program to reduce grade crossing accidents. The next month the AAR Board of Directors met and unanimously resolved that the industry should tender its cooperation in research on the problem. This action was transmitted to the Secretary by the AAR's president.
In reply, the Secretary expressed his appreciation and said that the Federal Railroad and Highway Administrators would be in touch with us on the matter. We have since been told that a research plan is under discussion and that our cooperation may be needed in Junealmost a year later.
If careful analysis of railroad safety disclosed any area or areas of railroading where dangers exist that cannot be dispelled by labor and management, then there might have to be legislation to meet that need.
This bill exemplifies the wrong approach: It assumes an all-pervasive need without study or analysis and it prescribes all-embracing regulation as a remedy for something yet undefined.
The correct approach was stated by the National Transportation Safety Board in its first annual report dated March 15, 1968, where it said at page 6:
We believe the rail industry should immediately consider a review of its rules and voluntarily agree to adhere to specific minimum standards. If such voluntary methods should prove unsuccessful, then the alternative may be increased Federal regulation. However, in the first instance, we recommend that the Depart
ment examine the feasibility of the industry revising and amending its rules and observing them voluntarily.
Moreover, in Mr. O'Connell's letter to Mr. Lang of April 3 to which I have already referred, he said:
We believe that the primary responsibility for improved railroad safety should rest upon railroad management and labor.
I am in complete agreement with these statements. They advocate further study and that the industry be given an opportunity to voluntarily revise and amend its rules.
That is all the railroad industry wants, and we think it is a fair and reasonable request, and in this connection we urge and solicit the cooperation of the Department of Transportation with the Railroad Safety and Research Departments in a serious joint effort to improve railroad safety.
Such a program would be negated by the enactment of H.R. 16980. Thank you very much. The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very kindly, Mr. Menk, for coming and giving us the benefit of your views.
Due to the late hour, I have wondered whether you could come back next week?
Mr. MENK. Mr. Chairman, I could come back on Tuesday: I can't come Monday, and I can't come Wednesday. I have to make a speech.
The CHAIRMAN. All right, that is what I had understood, time is pressing. If the committee desires to have you come back, we will let you know, then.
Mr. MENK. Thank you, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. I would hope that if they have questions, they would submit them in writing to you. They might wish to have you come back in, and if we do, we will let you know.
Mr. KUYKENDALL. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. KUYKENDALL. I would like to join in inviting this gentleman back if possible, because I know that all of us would like to ask him questions. I know we don't have the time at this point, but I know we would all like to have the opportunity to ask him some extensive questions personally.
Mr. CHAIRMAN. Well, if you could come back, then, Tuesday, we would be pleased to have you do so.
Mr. MENK. All right, thank you. I will be delighted.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you. We will have to adjourn, then, because the bell has rung for the day. We will adjourn until Monday morning at 10 o'clock.
(Whereupon, at 11:25 a.m., the subcommittee adjourned, to reconvene at 10 a.m., Monday, May 27, 1968.)