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However, by combining Federal and State manpower resources under our partnership concept, which I will discuss more fully later, I believe we can raise enforcement to a satisfactory level with minimum expenditure of Federal funds.
Secretary of Transportation Alan S. Boyd, in sending the Department's proposed legislation to Congress, said that the time has come to revise the outmoded legislative structure supporting rail safety.
So far as the Pennsylvania Commission is concerned-and I say this without derogation—Secretary Boyd could not have been talking about the regulatory agency which I happen to head.
Pennsylvania was aware of the need to streamline and tighten rail safety standards years ago. It has done something about it, and continues to do something about it. This may not be the case in some other States—but all the more reason for a coordinated Federal-State safety improvement program.
I would like to mention a few specific actions taken by the Pennsylvania commission which will show, indisputably, that the Commonwealth has a rail safety program which should be emulated—not lost. Let me cite some examples of just why this is so.
Disturbed by an increase in the frequency of derailments, our commission instituted a full-scale investigation of every railroad that operates in Pennsylvania.
In order to find out why trains-mostly freights are being derailed, we held hearings in 1967 and 1968, with a further hearing set for next week. When the hearings are completed, the commission will consider further changes in the rules, and promulgate whatever regulations are necessary to bring these accidents to the irreducible minimum.
Concerned with safety of railroad employees as well as passengers, our commission directed a Pittsburgh area carrier to install special powered trainline airbrakes on cars used to move molten steel. This was known in Pennsylvania as the Hot Metal Movement case which the commission won in behalf of railroad worker safety after long and difficult litigation.
Spurred by the State rail brotherhoods, the PUC some years ago inaugurated-and is continuing—a railroad yard improvement and cleanup program. This program ushered in a new era in Keystone State yard safety, as the brotherhoods will well attest.
The commission has also adopted a rule which reduces the danger of injury, or worse, to employees riding in the cabin car or caboose. Train consists, under this proviso, now are such that an occupied caboose can no longer face the danger of being crushed between other cars in case of sudden stop or accident.
The Pennsylvania commission just last week suffered a setback on one of its most important safety actions when the State supreme court ruled that the State had no authority to issue orders aimed at preventing rear end train collisions.
The decision invalidated our order requiring railroads to flag halted law moving trains. Under the hairline 4 to 3 opinion, the court
at the Federal Government had sole authority in this area of
safety, even though it does not exercise any authority in this is we find extremely regrettable, since the State superior court ur favor earlier. We still believe that our regulation was valid.
Further, we have in Pennsylvania a Hazardous Substances Transportation Board, set up to keep an eye on transportation of explosives and flammables by motor vehicle. We recently suggested to the board a revision in its rules to provide maximum protection for rail employees by making its motor rules conform with our commission's rail rules. We requested that trucks hauling hazardous substances stop at all railroad crossings; no exceptions of any kind. Such a precaution had not originally been proposed in the board's regulations.
I would like to also point out that the NARUC sponsors a national conference of State transportation specialists. Greater emphasis than ever has been placed this year on seminars at which State regulatory personnel get signifiant instruction in all phases of transportation. Their knowledge is funneled to the State commissions for regulatory innovations in all areas, including safety.
May I digress for a moment from my prepared text to point out a couple of routine letters that came over my desk that I picked out and laid aside.
This is a letter to the president of the Pennsylvania Central dated May 24:
DEAR MR. PERLMAN: On May 26, 1968, Penn Central Freight Train E-5 was derailed on a track of the Akron and Susquehanna branch approximately one mile west of Columbia, Pennsylvania.
Immediately following the derailment two members of the Commission staff proceeded to the scene to make an informal inspection. The train consisted of 47 loads, 196 empties and two diesel units Numbers 4821 and Numbers 4870. A total of 13 cars were derailed at four separate locations in the train. Men riding in the caboose were injured. The probable cause of the derailment according to an official of the carrier was improper train handling on the part of the engine. However, the inspection by the staff engineers disclosed that some sections of the track had no rail anchors, other sections did not have a sufficient number of anchors and in at least one location there was an accumulation of these anchors. At several locations there were buckets of spikes indicating that some maintenance work was anticipated.
Please refer to Rules 13 and 14 of this Commission's Railroad Regulations and to your own CE-78, "Specification for Construction and Maintenance of Track', and after investigation advise this Commission of the track in the area of derailment and adjacent thereto meets these requirements.
Also refer to our Regulation Number 15 concerning requirement for track inspection and promptly forward to us a copy of the inspection report submitted by the track inspector in this area for a period of two weeks preceding the derailment.
I think you can see from this letter and what we have asked for that the Pennsylvania Commission takes an active interest in these derailments and in railroad safety. I think that this letter is probably as good evidence as I could possibly produce.
This is another letter that was directed under the date of May 21 after a complaint had been brought to my attention to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. I don't have the letter that I wrote, I have the reply, but it is a letter in which I wrote to the head of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad calling attention to a grade crossing that was in very, very bad condition.
I suggested to him that we were getting very tired of being harassed by these complaints and having the company fix one at a time and that it would be much better if they would make a complete inspection of every grade crossing in Pennsylvania to determine what its condition is, and to start in on a general repair job of every grade crossing, and
that I would rather suggest this to him in this manner than to take formal action by the commission requiring them to do it.
I received this letter in return:
This will acknowledge your letter dated May 8, 1968, calling to my attention the need for remedial work at B. & O. crossing No. 135W, Oak Lane, Folcroft Borough, Pa.
At the time of your writing, timbers for replacement of this crossing had already been delivered to the site and I wish to report that work started yesterday, May 20, to effect a complete renewal. Spot repairs had been undertaken at this crossing in October and November of last year but proved to be ineffective. Therefore, complete renewal was scheduled. I share with you the desire to avoid continuing complaints of bad conditions on grade crossings and I can assure you that it is not our intent to ignore our obligation to maintain grade crossings to an acceptable condition.
Our company has included in its annual budget an item for rebuilding crossings, and for the year of 1968 we plan to completely renew a total of 53 crossings of public highways within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. These renewals are to be performed in addition to carrying out spot repairs as are charged to be performed by division forces as developed by routine periodic inspection.
Notwithstanding our standard procedure I am heeding your specific suggestions and am directing all division engineers having territory within the Commonwealth to conduct a special inspection of all grade crossings.
This is another example of what the Pennsylvania Commission is doing in the way of safety.
Now, I have presented this outline to the hope that your distinguished committee will be persuaded that the job of rail safety can best be done by joining Federal and State hands.
You will note in the Commission's railroad regulations, appended to my written statement, and which I believe have been distributed, 18 rules under the service and facilities section covering accidents, equipment, inspection, and maintenance. In addition, there is a separate section delineating minimum requirements for new construction.
These 25 pages of regulations represent knowledge about railroad safety gained in over a half century of public utility regulation in Pennsylvania. It would be tragic, in the view of our commission, to chop down this sturdy oak of rail safety regulation and the performance by the Pennsylvania Commission and other commissions throughout the United States.
Please permit me to list here some of the subjects covered by our safety regulations:
1. Accidents. 2. Protection of crossings at grade. 3. Construction, alteration, or relocation of crossings. 4. Installation of bridge or tunnel warnings. 5. Installation of self-illuminating lamps on certain switch stands. 6. Walkways and railings on bridges and trestles. 7. Safety equipment on track cars. 8. Track anchors. 9. Restricted speed on tracks undergoing maintenance. 10. Track inspection.
11. Flag protection against following trains. That is the case I referred to that was reversed by the supreme court of our State.
12. Blind cars.
These regulations are revised from time to time as our experience requires. The last revision of our rules was as of December 31, 1966, and we expect to make further revisions as circumstances dictate, particularly at the conclusion of our commission's derailment investigation.
In addition to the general regulations, the commission has found it advisable on many occasions to issue specific safety regulations to meet specific problems affecting a single carrier.
One example of this was the formulation of a proviso to prevent recurrences of an accident where a loaded commuter passenger train collided with a bumper block at the end of the track in the Philadelphia terminal of the Reading Co. The hot metal movement case mentioned earlier was another instance of action taken beyond the area of the general rail regulations.
Thus far in my statement, I have described in general terms the contribution made by our commission in the field of rail safety. It is my understanding that other States make a similar contribution, and that still other States are active in rail safety but to a lesser degree.
Consequently, if Congress determines to enact comprehensive rail safety legislation, the public interest requires that it be based on two main principles.
First, the legislation must not only preserve the right of the States to continue to engage in rail safety regulation which does not conflict with national purposes, but also must encourage the States to commit their creative energies in this important field.
Second, the legislation must stimulate a vibrant Federal-State partnership in rail safety which draws fully upon the vast resources of both.
To permit the achievement of this lofty goal, we have prepared proposed amendments to H.R. 16980 which are attached as an appendix to this statement. We respectfully request that this appendix be published in the record of this hearing.
Adoption of our proposed amendments would authorize each State to implement a comprehensive rail safety program designed to reduce accidents, and deaths, injuries, and property damage resulting therefrom. Such a program would be compatible with the minimum safety standards prescribed by the Secretary pursuant to section 3 of the bill.
The State program would complement the Federal program in two important aspects. First, it would permit State safety regulation in those areas unregulated by the Federal Government, with particular focus on those matters of local concern inappropriate for uniform Federal rulemaking. Second, the Federal program would be further complemented by permitting the State, in a matter governed by a Federal standard to adopt a more stringent standard provided it is reasonable, does not constitute an undue burden on interstate commerce, and is required by the public interest.
Prior to adopting the more stringent standard, the State would have to give 90 days' notice to the Secretary of Transportation, who could at any time nullify the standard if he found it to be in violation of one of the three requirements I have just mentioned.
The Congress, by permitting State governments to continue to study the applications of their safety regulations and to make the modifications therein they deem appropriate, would inspire a cross
fertilization of ideas and techniques which would undoubtedly improve the rail safety record.
The States have frequently been recognized in their role as “testing laboratories” of the governmental process, whereby innovation and experiment may be undertaken and later retained or rejected as the results dictate. Our program would stimulate the use of these productive abilities.
It is particularly important that the States be permitted to adopt standards more stringent than the Federal minimum standards where necessary to protect the public against unique hazards of local origin. Roadbed conditions would be an especially important area for the application of an overlay of State expertise.
The prescription of preemptive Federal minimum standards which exclude State participation could easily subject the public to greater hazards than it now faces. A staff of safety experts in Washington, no matter how proficient or dedicated, could not possibly fashion minimum safety standards which would be adequate in all circumstances in a country as diverse and as large as this one.
Consequently, the participation of State expertise is required to deal effectively with these unique safety problems if the public interest is to be protected to the maximum extent practical under this legislation.
The State program we propose would also include concurrent jurisdiction for the States to perform accident investigations, and to conduct inspections and tests to determine compliance with Federal and State safety standards. Violations of Federal standards would be reported to Federal representatives for enforcement.
We further propose that those State agencies requiring financial assistance to conduct comprehensive rail safety programs receive Federal funds up to 50 percent of the cost of the programs if approved by the Secretary.
The provision of financial assistance to such State agencies, on a dollar-for-dollar matching basis, will not only invigorate State participation but will also permit the Congress to implement its national safety program for far less than what it would otherwise cost for the Federal Government to assume the entire financial burden. In other words, the use of matching funds would in effect pull State money into a Federal program.
I think with the difficulty we are having in balancing the national budget that you would be glad to have State funds go into a program of this kind and thereby reduce the amount of money that would be required to carry out a full-fledged safety program, and this is one of the ways that you can accomplish it.
We further propose a small grant to the national organization of the State agencies to pay the cost of coordinating the activities of the State agencies with the Department of Transportation, and assisting the State agencies in the establishment and conduct of safety programs, and rendering them technical assistance in other regulatory matters.
In order to strengthen the administration of the act, we propose the creation of a 10-member National Railroad Safety Advisory Committee to advise, consult with, and make recommendations to the Secretary on matters relating to the activities and function of the Department in the field of railroad safety. The committee would be