America was built on a foundation of heavy industry. Whether it is the blast furnaces where steel was made to give life to skyscrapers or the railroads which move the goods in our refrigerators, living rooms, and garages, these industries must be able to conduct their operations without the specter of arbitrary regulation.
An example of arbitrary legislation comes in the form of S. 576, the Railway Safety Act of 2023, which was introduced by Ohio Sen. JD Vance in the wake of the February, 2023 accident in East Palestine, OH. While it is certainly reasonable for an elected official to be angry and looking for answers in the wake of any mishap, it has always been irresponsible to legislate with haste and anger.
America’s Founding Fathers understood this. After all, they had just lived through the caprice of King George III and the British Parliament who both denied the colonists their freedoms and used their anger to impose arbitrary economic restrictions. That is why it is sad to see the same attitudes emanating from the U.S. Senate, particularly with respect to the Railway Safety Act of 2023.
One of the more obnoxious provisions of the legislation is the mandate that every train operated by a Class I railroad (any carrier with revenue greater than $250 million) have minimum of two crew members in the locomotive cab. In the rush to please labor unions—and with no discernible safety benefit—the framers of S. 576 included this mandate. Yet, they seemingly forgot that the train which derailed in East Palestine had not 2 crew members in the locomotive cab, but 3 individuals. So, what exactly is the justification for this provision, when the evidence clearly shows it is unnecessary?
Furthermore, if the framers of this bill believed the mandate was necessary for safety, why does it just apply to railroads with revenues above $250 million, and none other? And why not passenger rail operators?
Nearly a full year later, it is clear that S. 576 is not an example of rational, responsible legislating. And lost in the crush of all this are the people of East Palestine, OH about whom little is heard from anyone pushing this legislation. In a coalition letter led by FreedomWorks last year, we said:
“Lawmakers would be better served focusing on recovery for the people of East Palestine, including by ensuring railroad Norfolk Southern makes good on their commitments, while also waiting for more details from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to inform any potential future policies.”
DC politicos would do well to heed these words.