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Biden-Harris Administration Announces New Requirements for Freight Railroads to Provide Hazmat Information to First Responders

Biden-Harris Administration Announces New Requirements for Freight Railroads to Provide Hazmat Information to First Responders

New rule builds on DOT efforts to strengthen rail safety and support first responders

WASHINGTON –The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced a final rule to protect firefighters and improve public safety. The final rule requires railroads to proactively provide first responders with real-time, electronic information about rail hazmat shipments to the primary Public Safety Answering Point (for example, a 9-1-1 call center or emergency responder phone app such as the AskRail Mobile App) as soon as the railroad is aware of an accident or incident involving hazardous materials.

“In a hazmat incident, firefighters and first responders arriving on scene need to know what kind of hazardous materials are present so they can protect themselves and their communities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s work to make our rails safer, this final rule will require railroads to maintain detailed, real-time information about trains carrying hazardous materials – and share this information with local emergency responders when they need it.”

The final rule requires all railroads to generate, in hard copy and electronic versions, real-time train consist information for shipments containing hazardous materials. Required information includes the quantity and position of the hazardous materials on the train, the train’s origin and destination, emergency response information, and a designated emergency point of contact at the railroad. 

“We heard first-hand from firefighters that were responding to the Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine that they and other first responders need hazardous materials train consists as soon as an incident occurs,” said PHMSA Deputy Administrator Tristan Brown. “This information will ensure the heroes that are responding to an incident can prepare for what they will encounter instead of waiting until after they get on scene to try to access this vital information.”

“Requiring railroads to provide first responders the real-time information they need about hazardous materials moving through their communities is another example of DOT using the full range of its authorities to make freight rail safer for people working on, living near, and traveling along railroad tracks,” said FRA Administrator Amit Bose. “When Norfolk Southern’s East Palestine derailment occurred last February, FRA and PHMSA personnel were on the ground within hours to support the investigation and the community, and this rule, combined with several FRA rules and actions, is a clear sign that our support continues today, as does our pursuit of higher safety standards.”

The new rule will ensure firefighters can fully utilize PHMSA’s 2024 Emergency Response Guidebook (as well as the mobile phone ERG app), which PHMSA recently distributed to nearly 2 million first responders across the nation as part of a quadrennial effort to equip first responders with information on how to respond to each type of hazmat incident.

In addition to the new rule, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken key steps to improve the safety of America’s railways by deploying funding from the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, holding railroads accountable, raising rail safety standards, and supporting first responders and rail workers.

To date, DOT has announced over $2 billion in rail safety infrastructure investments through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and recently issued final rules to enhance rail safety including:

  • A final rule that establishes minimum safety requirements for the size of train crews and generally requires a second crewmember on trains.
  • A final rule that requires railroads to provide emergency escape breathing apparatuses to train crews and other employees when transporting certain hazardous materials.
  • A final rule that requires the installation of locomotive video recording devices on passenger trains.
  •  A final rule that requires that large freight and passenger railroads systematically identify and evaluate fatigue-related hazards on their system, measures those risks, and then mitigate them.

The Final Rule is currently available here.

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The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration develops and enforces regulations for the safe, reliable, and environmentally sound operation of the nation’s 2.8-million-mile pipeline transportation system and the nearly 1.2 million daily shipments of hazardous materials by land, sea, and air. Please visit https://www.phmsa.dot.gov for more information.
 

Official news published at https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/biden-harris-administration-announces-new-requirements-freight-railroads-provide

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