March 17, 2023

Reps. Sykes, Johnson Introduce the Bipartisan RAIL Act to Prevent Future Train Derailment Disasters

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, U.S. Representatives Bill Johnson (R-OH) and Emilia Strong Sykes (D-OH) introduced the Reducing Accidents in Locomotives (RAIL) Act. The Representatives released the statements below following the introduction of their legislation:

“Public safety transcends politics and district boundaries, which is why I am proud to work with Rep. Johnson on bipartisan, commonsense legislation to prevent future train derailment disasters like we have seen in East Palestine and across the United States,” said Rep. Emilia Sykes. “The RAIL Act will implement effective measures to keep our communities safe, hold railroad corporations accountable, and ensure that no American living close to our 140,000 miles of railroad track has to worry about the threat of a toxic derailment in their backyard. This is a good first step towards better rail infrastructure, but we know there is still more to be done to protect our communities.”

“The East Palestine train derailment has upended the lives of those living in East Palestine and the surrounding region. Since the East Palestine train derailment, two additional trains have derailed in Ohio. It is imperative that Congress swiftly works to make much-needed changes to our nation’s railway safety standards,” said Rep. Bill Johnson. “The bipartisan RAIL Act would bring forth effective and responsible changes to the way the rail industry operates to help prevent railway accidents and keep communities across America safe. I look forward to working with Rep. Sykes to get our critical legislation across the finish line.”

The RAIL Act would improve railway safety and operations by:

  • Directing the Secretary of Transportation to promulgate new rules to improve safety based off the findings of the NTSB investigation in conjunction with the Federal Railroad Administration
  • Increasing inspections on all trains, including those carrying hazardous materials
  • Requiring railroad corporations to provide notification in advance to pertinent to State emergency response commissioners, tribal emergency response commission, or any other State or tribal agency regarding the transportation of hazardous materials
  • Strengthening requirements pertaining to safety placards that would have assisted emergency responders in identifying the hazardous materials in the rail cars on-site
  • Strengthening regulations to prevent wheel bearing failures, which caused the East Palestine train derailment
  • Increasing maximum penalties for violations of rail safety regulations
  • Increasing funding for Hazardous Materials Training for First Responders
  • Auditing federal rail inspection programs.

Ohio, which has one of the country’s largest railroad networks, ranks third worst in the nation for serious train accident accidents and hazardous materials spills. From 2019 through November 2022, 281 train accidents occurred in Ohio.

11 members of the Ohio delegation are co-sponsors of the RAIL Act, including Reps. Max Miller (OH-07), Greg Landsman (OH-3), Troy Balderson (OH-12), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Mike Carey (OH-15), Joyce Beatty (OH-03), Dave Joyce (OH-14), Shontel Brown (OH-11), Mike Turner (OH-10) .