Thursday, January 27, 2022

HR 6499 Introduced – Rail Car Coverings

Earlier this week, Rep Meng (D,NY) introduced HR 6499, the Train Coverings for Community Safety Act. The bill would require DOT to “prescribe regulations requiring materials transported by rail to be completely covered while in transit, including while being held, delayed, or transferred.”

Neither Meng, nor her sole cosponsor {Rep. Suozzi (D,NY)}, are members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to which this bill was assigned for consideration. This means that there is little chance that this bill will be considered by that Committee. If the bill were considered, I suspect that unless it was significantly revised, there would not be adequate support for it to pass.

This appears to be one of those not unusual bills that are introduced from time to time to respond to the concerns of a small number of influential constituents. I cannot find any news reports, but suspect that there is a rail line that runs through the adjacent districts of Meng and Suozzi on Long Island that routinely transports some product in open hopper cars that causes some concerns to nearby residents who have complained to their congresscritters. This bill would be ‘proof’ that their representative had ‘done something’.

This very short (one effective sentence) bill has a number of problems. First it provides for directed rulemaking which essentially cuts the public out of the process. Second it vaguely requires “materials transported by rail to be completely covered”. While this would certainly cover open hopper cars (pun intended), it would also apply to anything transported on flat cars, or auto transport cars. Most of the freight on those cars causes no problem that would be addressed by ‘covering’ the freight. It would appear that little thought and no railroad experience went into the crafting of this bill.

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