The rail industry in the United States
is governed by federal laws and regulations designed to ensure the safety of
rail employees, passengers, and the public. As early as 1893, Congress began
enacting legislation to deal with rail safety issues. Over the last century,
laws have been passed, and remain in force today, establishing a variety of
safety standards in the rail industry.
These laws give the
Department of Transportation's
Administration (FRA) broad authority to issue and enforce regulations that
ensure the safety of the rail system. As a result, the FRA has issued numerous
regulations regarding the safety of locomotive equipment, track and signal
systems, and railroad operating procedures. It is Watco Companies policy and
practice to operate in full compliance with all applicable federal safety
The following laws provide
the framework for federal rail safety standards:
Hazardous Materials Transportation Act
authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to designate materials as hazardous
and to issue and enforce (through civil penalties and other means) regulations
providing for their safe transport in all modes of transportation. This law,
enacted in 1974, applies to shippers and carriers alike.
Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970
grants the Secretary of Transportation rule-making authority (subsequently
delegated to the Administrator of the FRA) over all areas of railroad safety,
and conferring all the powers necessary to detect and penalize violations of
any rail safety law. As a result of this legislation, FRA issued rules
concerning track, freight cars, operating rules, operating practices,
including control of alcohol and drug use, engineer qualifications, bridge
worker safety, radio use, rear end markers, glazing of windows on locomotives,
cabooses, and passenger cars.
Hours of Service Act
prohibits railroads from requiring or permitting their employees to work
excessive hours, and granting FRA authority over the safety regulation of
employee sleeping quarters.
Signal Inspection Act
grants FRA authority to regulate the maintenance, testing, removal or
modification of signal systems.
Accident Reports Act
requires railroads to report accidents to FRA and authorizing FRA to
Locomotive Inspection Act
prohibits the use of unsafe locomotives and authorizing the Federal Railroad
Administration (FRA) to issue standards for maintenance and testing.
Safety Appliance Act
requires the use and maintenance of specific appliances, e.g., handholds,
on rail cars to protect rail employees, especially those involved in switching
operations. This legislation also included provisions concerning the use and
maintenance of power brakes.
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