Public Regulations And Private Railroads: The Battle Of Weighing Safety Against Cost

by Reed Reimer – Vice President of Business Development, R&R Contracting

In a recent Reuters article, the topic of specialized railcar brakes, known as ECP (electronically controlled pneumatic) brakes, was discussed. Specifically, how Senate Republicans considered a proposal that would repeal the brake requirement. Class 1 railroads would’ve stood to benefit the most from the repeal, and as such contributed the most to lobbying efforts in recent history according to a previous Reuters article.

The current proposal, as it stands, could cost the rail industry upwards of $3 billion dollars to implement by 2021, established at a time when, according to a New York Times article, they won’t even meet a 2008 standard for a new $9 billion technology known as PTC (positive train control) set to go live December 31st 2015.

When added to national FRA reporting standards, where railroads must disclose to states the movement of Bakken crude oil through their territories, and now individual states hiring for their own rail safety programs, these policies and practices can seem to be overbearing.

When balanced against the potential loss of life and property, these measures may save a lot of time, money, and heartache. In my business, we preach prevention to all our customers in order to protect from the unknown. Problems may never occur but, writing from experience, that is very unlikely. So the question becomes, how much are you willing to wager now against the future?