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Report: Transportation Safety Gains Held Back By Red Tape

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Transportation safety is a top priority, but future safety gains are held back by government red tape that stifles innovation and improvement, according to a new Competitive Enterprise Institute report, Toward Performance-Based Transportation Safety Regulation: Focus on Results Instead of Rigid Rules to Improve Safety and Promote Innovation.

“Safety is a major concern when it comes to transporting passengers and freight around the country, but too often regulators make it difficult for industries to find new, innovative ways to meet their safety goals,” said Marc Scribner, CEI senior fellow and author of the new report. “The best way to improve transportation safety is to replace government micromanaging with performance goals, which would hold industries more accountable and encourage new technologies and practices that improve safety,” said Scribner.

Despite executive orders from Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama instructing regulatory agencies to rely more on performance objectives, federal regulators have made only limited progress. The Federal Railroad Administration, for example, appears willing to adopt badly needed performance-based safety reforms for passenger rail. But when it comes to freight rail, the agency has proposed a limiting, prescriptive rule that requires trains maintain at least two crew members at all times. The CEI report warns that such restrictions ignore the future safety gains of fully automated trains and will deter railroads from investing in labor-saving and safety-enhancing automated train technology, since they will be greatly restricted from reducing crew sizes.

The report also discusses gains and needed reforms with respect to automobiles, drones, pipelines, and airlines and recommends a set of legislative reforms to require outcome-based rulemaking.