Federal Railroad Administration modernizes brake safety standards



original story at Google.com

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced Friday that it has issued a final rule modernizing brake safety standards.

The new rule would extend the amount of time freight rail equipment can be left off-air (parked with its air brake system depressurized) before requiring a new brake inspection. The rule is expected to reduce the number of idling locomotives. Additionally, the final rule incorporates longstanding waivers for brake inspections, tests, and equipment while removing outdated provisions and clarifying existing regulations.

Officials said the new final rule modernizes brake system safety by incorporating new technologies, reducing unnecessary costs, and increasing consistency between the U.S. and Canada’s regulations.

“Incorporating technologies and safety practices, this final rule improves freight rail efficiency and will make our freight rail system competitive for the future,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory. “Issuing waivers permitting railroads to test these practices gave us an opportunity to verify the safety benefits. Modernization no longer has to happen by waiver; it’s permanent, and the economic impact to freight rail couldn’t come at a more pressing time.”

Since 2008, Canada has allowed trains to be off air for 24 hours, the same time the new final rule allows American trains to be off air. Canada’s operation safety data supports FRA’s actions.

Officials estimate the regulatory cost savings will be over $500 million over the next decade, adding to the more than $93 billion in regulatory savings implemented by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and the Department of Transportation.

Additionally, FRA estimates the number of Class I brake inspection will drop by 110,000 inspections annually. The change reduces the cost and time needed for inspections while permitting more flexibility to turn off locomotives, resulting in fewer idling locomotives.

The final rule also incorporates new technologies to test brakes on each freight car.

“In the more than four years since FRA began issuing waivers for this procedure, we’ve seen it used on more than 800,000 rail cars and have observed remarkable safety improvements,” Batory added.

Cars tested with the new methods showed a 58 percent reduction in repeat freight car brake failures. The improvement permit FRA to increase the testing intervals for freight cars from one year to 24-or 48-month intervals, depending on the automated test method used.

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) applauded the new rule.

“With this final rule, the FRA has modernized outdated, legacy regulations to keep pace with the industry’s ongoing tech transformation while maintaining uncompromising levels of safety,” said AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies. “AAR applauds the FRA for this rulemaking process and its commitment to our shared safety goals.”

Updated: December 15, 2020 — 3:55 PM

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