CEI Co-Leads Coalition Letter on Railroad Safety Act

Photo Credit: Getty

Dear Members of Congress:

The undersigned individuals write to express concerns with the Railway Safety Act (S. 576). Safety advancement in any mode of transportation, including U.S. freight railroading, is critical; but public policy should be written to address specific problems. It should be rooted in data and pass the muster of cost-benefit analysis.

While the legislation that cleared the Senate Commerce Committee is better than the original bill introduced in March, it still includes far too many prescriptive policies, unduly favors organized labor, and would unduly empower unelected bureaucrats. This is why it garnered the support of just two Republicans on the Committee.

Sen. Ted Cruz, ranking member of the Commerce Committee, and energy experts have also outlined how the bill would disrupt domestic energy production, while the agriculture, propane, and intermodal transportation industries, to name a few, remain opposed.

The most glaring issues with the legislation include the following:

  • The bill seeks to mandate that large railroads maintain two-person crews – the current standard set by voluntary collective bargaining – in perpetuity. Public policy groups have opposed this measure, also being pursued by the Biden administration’s Department of Transportation, because it is unneeded, ignores technology backstops, and would lessen competition. Two may seem better than one, and perhaps two will be the voluntary standard into the future, but lawmakers should not cement this into law, especially not in reaction to a February train derailment that included a three-member crew. Railroads should have the flexibility to adjust their operations in the future. This measure is likely why Sen. John Thune (R-SD) called the bill a “stalking horse for onerous regulatory mandates and union giveaways.”
  • The largest section of the bill deals with the movement of hazardous materials, triggering an unfathomable number of future rulemakings pertaining to issues such as train size. As currently written, these rulemakings would avoid cost-benefit analysis (CBA). Conservatives have long championed the need for CBA because no human activity is 100% safe 100% of the time. Every activity involves some form of CBA. New railroad safety laws should certainly require them, including a survey of the likely risks created as railroads and shippers alter procedures to mitigate the cost of the new rules.
  • Lastly, the bill also includes prescriptions on the use of trackside detectors, which exist today not because of regulatory wisdom but market innovation. Rather than dictate expansion of these proven technologies, government policies should seek to incentivize their evolution and adoption. Time and time again, when the federal government locks into a single technology the public suffers as industry lacks the flexibility or incentive to pursue next-generation technologies.

Railroads are crucial for the efficient running of the nation’s supply chain. That makes it all the more important that Congress pursue wise, cost-effective policies that benefit the entire nation, as opposed to ones that primarily aid a few well-placed special interests. Congress needs to avoid rushed policymaking that caters to special interests rather than addressing the issues at hand in a thoughtful, cost-effective manner.


Iain Murray

Senior Fellow

Competitive Enterprise Institute

Sean Higgins

Research Fellow

Competitive Enterprise Institute

Paul J. Gessing


Rio Grande Foundation

James L. Martin
60 Plus Association

John Shelton

Policy Advisor

Advancing American Freedom

Saul Anuzis
American Association of Senior Citizens

Steve Pociask
President and CEO

American Consumer Institute

Richard Manning


Americans for Limited Government

Brent Gardner
Chief Government Affairs Officer
Americans for Prosperity

John Hart

Executive Director

C3 Action (Conservative Coalition for Climate Solutions Action)

Garrett Ballengee 

Executive Director 

Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy

Ryan Ellis


Center for a Free Economy

Timothy H. Lee
Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs

Center for Individual Freedom

Roslyn Layton
China Tech Threat

Matthew Kandrach


Consumer Action for a Strong Economy

Nathan A. Benefield

Senior Vice President

Commonwealth Foundation

Hon. Kenneth “Ken” Cuccinelli II

Former VA Attorney General, Former Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security

Benjamin R. Dierker

Executive Director

Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure*

Steve Forbes

Chairman and Editor-in-Chief

Forbes Media

Adam Brandon

George Landrith

Frontiers of Freedom

Cameron Sholty

Executive Director

Heartland Impact

James Taylor

Heartland Institute
David R. Henderson

Research Fellow

Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Tom Giovanetti


Institute for Policy Innovation

Andrew Langer 


Institute for Regulatory Analysis and Engagement

Ike Brannon
Senior Fellow
Jack Kemp Foundation

Alfredo Ortiz
President & CEO

Job Creators Network

Brett Healy


The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy 

Drew Cline


Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy (NH)

Patrick McLaughlin

Senior Research Fellow, Dir. of Policy Analytics

Mercatus Center at George Mason University*

Matthew Gagnon


Maine Policy Institute

Charles Sauer

Market Institute

Douglas Carswell

President and CEO

Mississippi Center for Public Policy

Brandon Arnold
Executive Vice President

National Taxpayers Union

Marcos Lopez
Outreach & Coalitions Director

Nevada Policy Research Institute  

Daniel J. Erspamer
Pelican Institute for Public Policy

Karen Kerrigan

President & CEO

Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

David Williams

Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Mike Gallagher

Vice President

Washington Policy Center

Carol Platt Liebau


Yankee Institute

*Affiliation for Identification Purposes Only