• ITVI.USA
    13,795.070
    81.410
    0.6%
  • OTRI.USA
    26.560
    -0.120
    -0.4%
  • OTVI.USA
    13,740.380
    64.000
    0.5%
  • TLT.USA
    2.720
    -0.060
    -2.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.670
    0.130
    5.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.930
    0.280
    10.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.320
    -0.020
    -1.5%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.040
    0.050
    1.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.740
    0.050
    3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.210
    0.000
    0%
  • WAIT.USA
    108.000
    5.000
    4.9%
  • ITVI.USA
    13,795.070
    81.410
    0.6%
  • OTRI.USA
    26.560
    -0.120
    -0.4%
  • OTVI.USA
    13,740.380
    64.000
    0.5%
  • TLT.USA
    2.720
    -0.060
    -2.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.670
    0.130
    5.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.930
    0.280
    10.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.320
    -0.020
    -1.5%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.040
    0.050
    1.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.740
    0.050
    3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.210
    0.000
    0%
  • WAIT.USA
    108.000
    5.000
    4.9%
American ShipperShippingTrade and Compliance

Shippers sound alarm over PTC deadline

With railroads not able to meet the December 2015 compliance deadline for positive train control, an extension is needed, according a letter sent to every member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this week.

   Several shipper groups are asking Congress to extend the deadline for railroads to implement positive train control (PTC) beyond the Dec. 31, 2015 date that was set forth in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.
   “The prospects of pervasive negative impacts across the country and throughout the economy are not theoretical as shippers, receivers and rail carriers confront a massive disruption in freight rail service,” said Bruce Carlton, president and chief executive officer of the National Industrial Transportation League in a letter sent to every member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this week.
   Cal Dooley, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council said in a statement on Wednesday, “The United States is facing an unprecedented shutdown of freight rail service that will send a shock wave through our economy if Congress fails to act swiftly on Positive Train Control (PTC). It is abundantly clear that the railroads will not be able to meet their deadline to implement PTC.
   “Furthermore, despite their common carrier obligation to provide service, most major railroads have stated that they will shut down large portions of their rail lines unless the deadline is extended. A transportation shut down of this magnitude would have cascading impacts that would threaten the nation’s food, energy and water supplies, as well as manufacturing, construction and nearly every other sector of the U.S. economy. Even allowing the deadline to approach will have severe consequences as companies need time to adjust transportation plans in the face of a shutdown of freight rail service,” Dooley added.
   The United States Government Accountability Office on Wednesday also issued a report that said none of the nation’s four major Class 1 railroads expect to meet the deadline. GAO gave the estimated PTC compliance date for BNSF as December 2017, for Union Pacific as December 2018, and for both CSX and Norfolk Southern as 2020.
   The NIT League noted many “member companies ship and receive products via rail around the country. All League members are deeply concerned about the severe implications of a failure to extend the PTC implementation deadline.”
   PTC was mandated “on all rail lines where ‘toxic inhalation hazard’ (TIH) products are moved, and on passenger rail lines. A PTC system will monitor and control train movements to prevent collisions and derailments,” said Carlton.
   “All informed parties knew in 2008 that successfully meeting this deadline would be extraordinarily difficult given the underlying technology was not in hand, the national scope of coverage, the requirements for PTC interoperability between the separate freight rail networks, the need for extensive testing, and other equally daunting obstacles,” he said.
   “America’s Class I railroads have not ignored the PTC mandate; extensive efforts and vast sums have been committed to meet this deadline,” added Carlton. “Nevertheless, the GAO, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Class I railroads all agree that this deadline cannot be met.
   “Commuter lines are beginning to confront the very real possibility of being forced to shut down operations on January 1. Freight rail lines are signaling they may be unable to accept any TIH shipments even in light of their common carrier obligation. If, for example, chlorine and anhydrous ammonia are embargoed by the railroads, operations of such basic industrial activities as water purification and the production of agricultural fertilizer would be severely threatened.”
   Positive train control was mandated after a 2008 collision between a freight train and commuter train in Chatsworth, California that killed 25 people and injured at least 100 more.
   The National Transportation Safety Administration has said PTC would have prevented a high speed collision in Philadelphia this past May that killed 8 persons.
   PTC was also discussed at a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee confirmation hearing on Thursday morning for Sarah Feinberg, acting administrator of the FRA.
   “If only a few railroads could not meet the deadline, perhaps we could conclude there is an issue with those railroads. But if nearly every railroad in the country will not meet the deadline, we need to acknowledge there is an issue with the deadline,” said Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune, R-S.D.
   Thune and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., support a deadline extension.
   Shuster said in a statement the GAO report “confirms that the PTC mandate is not achievable, and extending the deadline is essential to preventing significant disruptions of both passenger and freight rail service across the country.”
   “Passenger and freight railroads need time beyond the current deadline to finish implementation of a complex system that relies on new technology,” said Thune. “Failure to extend this legal deadline would create significant hardships for customers and passengers who rely on railroads. Passing an extension that includes meaningful accountability for PTC implementation is the best thing Congress can do to enhance safety and avert a chaotic situation that would hurt our economy much more than the recent West Coast ports backup.”
   However, Mark V. Rosenker, who was head of the National Transportation Safety Board at the time of the Chatsworth crash, told the New York Times in July the deadline should not be extended.
   “Seven years, in my judgment, is a long time and an adequate time to do it,” said Rosenker. “The technology is out there. Let’s put it in.”

Chris Dupin

Chris Dupin has written about trade and transportation and other business subjects for a variety of publications before joining American Shipper and Freightwaves.
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