Bipartite Infrastructure Law Includes New Safety Measures for Railways | Hogan Lovells

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, HR 3684 (117), was enacted by President Biden on November 15, 2021. In addition to $ 66 billion in funding for passenger and freight railways, the law contains a number of new rail safety measures to be implemented by the US Department of Transportation acting through the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

Most of the new measures target rail passenger safety and one of them could lead to significant changes in interior standards for passenger cars. In particular, the potential rules arising from FRA’s analysis on occupant restraint systems and air bags could lead to the most significant change in design standards for passenger equipment in more than 20 years.

  • Emergency lighting for passenger trains: Within a year, FRA is due to launch regulations requiring passenger trains to be equipped with emergency lighting systems in the event of a power failure. Lighting should be bright enough to allow passengers, crew and first responders to orient themselves, identify obstacles, move safely in the car, and evacuate safety in the event of an accident. accident or derailment. (article 22406).
  • Assessment of passenger security systems: The new law requires the FRA to estimate the costs and benefits of implementing new rail passenger protection, including occupant restraint systems, air bags and emergency window restraint systems. FRA will also look at the costs and benefits of changes to other interior design elements, including seats, baggage restraints and table configurations. The FRA will report the results to Congress and the FRA will have the power to promulgate regulations based on its findings. (article 22420).
  • Audit of the operator training program: The new law directs the FRA to conduct an audit to determine whether locomotive driver training programs provide locomotive engineers and conductors with the knowledge and ability to safely operate a locomotive or train. (article 22410).
  • Drug tests for mechanical workers: Within six months, the FRA must change its rules on drug and alcohol testing (random testing, reasonable suspicion, reasonable cause, pre-employment, return-to-work and follow-up testing) to cover employees who perform mechanical activities. (article 22427).
  • Application of the maximum authorized speed: The new law requires suburban and intercity railways to identify sections of track where trains must slow to more than 20 mph from their approach speed and to describe actions to warn and enforce maximum speed authorized for passenger trains in these sections. (article 22415).
  • Review of Amtrak’s security processes: The new law requires the FRA to conduct a review of Amtrak’s security-related processes and procedures, compliance with security requirements, and overall security culture. FRA is required to report its findings to Congress within one year. (article 22407).
  • Level crossing improvements: The new law provides funding for the creation of a portal that passers-by can use to report blocked passages. It also provides for an FRA review of state crossing laws and periodic updates of crossing reports and plans. (Articles 22404, 22401, 22403, respectively).
  • Accident and incident investigations: The new law requires the secretary to create a standard process that investigators can use to collect information during FRA investigations into accidents and incidents. (article 22417).

FRA’s audit of train crew training programs, long sought after by the railway workforce, will likely lead to recommended changes in training and certification requirements for locomotive engineers and supervisors. train.

Emergency lighting is present on many passenger trains in service today, but the new lighting rule will likely trigger retrofit requirements for some equipment in service.

However, the burden of modernizing passenger train lighting would be small compared to the cost of the new interior restraint systems, if they were mandatory. In fact, we think FRA’s analysis of occupant restraint systems and air bags could trigger proposals for the most significant change in passenger equipment design standards since the promulgation of train equipment safety standards passengers in 1999. For example, FRA’s analysis of passenger car interior restraint systems is by far the most important new rail safety measure in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

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