Three men standing in a warehouse managing ending inventory counts

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has once again urged Congress to advance a freight safety bill more than a year after a train derailment in Ohio raised concerns about rail safety.

Testifying before a House budget panel on April 30, Buttigieg emphasized the importance of passing bipartisan legislation aimed at enhancing rail safety policies. The Railway Safety Act, sponsored by Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown (D) and J.D. Vance (R) and endorsed by the White House, awaits consideration in the Senate after gaining approval from the Senate Commerce Committee last year. However, a House version of the bill has yet to be scheduled for a committee vote.

The bill seeks to update certain policies at the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in response to the East Palestine train derailment that occurred on Feb. 3, 2023. The derailment, involving a Norfolk Southern freight train, caused damage to the perimeter and prompted calls for improved safety measures.

Speaking on behalf of East Palestine residents, Senator Brown emphasized the importance of holding accountable all parties involved in the recovery efforts. The National Transportation Safety Board is set to release a report detailing the derailment’s events in June.

Despite ongoing efforts by industry stakeholders to improve rail safety, concerns persist about the potential for future incidents. The Association of American Railroads highlights investments in network maintenance, capital expenditures, and advanced inspection technologies as crucial steps in reducing train derailments. These efforts have contributed to significant drops in equipment-caused and track-caused accident rates between 2000 and 2023.

Buttigieg reiterated the need for congressional action, emphasizing that bipartisan legislation would provide federal agencies with stronger tools to enhance rail safety nationwide. With the June release of the NTSB report approaching, the spotlight remains on efforts to prevent future derailments and ensure the safety of communities along railway routes.