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Getting Results: U.S. Department of Transportation’s Efforts Early in Biden-Harris Administration Result in a Number of Final Rules to Improve Transportation Safety and Strengthen Consumer Protections

Getting Results: U.S. Department of Transportation’s Efforts Early in Biden-Harris Administration Result in a Number of Final Rules to Improve Transportation Safety and Strengthen Consumer Protections

Monday, June 24, 2024

WASHINGTON – Led by Secretary Buttigieg, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) continues to deliver on its top priority of safety and demonstrate the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to delivering real results for the American people. Major progress has been made over the last three years on safety rules and consumer protections that will protect travelers, transportation workers, and communities for years ahead on all modes of transportation. This comes as NHTSA reports an eighth consecutive quarter of declines in roadway fatalities—an encouraging trend as DOT works to address our country’s roadway safety crisis. 

To highlight the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic record of working to make our nation’s transportation systems safer, DOT is sharing notable final rules and announcements that will improve and safeguard the way we move, and that will ensure travelers are better protected when spending money on travel.  

Final Rules to Improve Safety: 

From air travel, to railways, to roadway safety, DOT initiated rulemakings starting in 2021. This work has resulted in: 

  • A final rule announced today that will improve public safety and protect firefighters and first responders by requiring railroads to proactively provide emergency personnel with real-time information about hazardous material shipments as soon as the railroad is aware of an incident involving hazmat. The rule will ensure first responders immediately know what kind of hazmat is present so they can protect themselves and their communities as they respond to emergencies. 
  • Two final rules to improve rail safety by requiring train dispatchers and signal employees receive adequate certification and training to ensure they are able to safely carry out their duties to better protect rail workers and communities.  
  • A final rule to strengthen rail safety and hold railroads accountable by establishing minimum safety requirements for the size of train crews. The new rule will enhance safety in the rail industry by generally requiring and emphasizing the necessity of a second crewmember on Class I freight trains. 
  • A final rule to require railroads to provide emergency escape breathing apparatuses for train crew members and other employees who could be exposed to an inhalation hazard in the event of a hazardous material release. 
  • A final rule to reduce roadway and pedestrian fatalities by creating a new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard that will make automatic emergency braking (AEB), including pedestrian AEB, standard on all passenger cars and light trucks. This safety standard is expected to significantly reduce rear-end and pedestrian crashes, saving an estimated 360 lives each year and preventing 24,000 injuries 
  • A final rule to promote transit safety and protect transit workers by completing the first major update to FTA’s Public Transit Agency Safety Plans regulation, ensuring transit organizations and workers across the country have the tools to make their transportation operations as safe as possible.  FTA also revised the National Public Safety Plan. 
  • A final rule to require that charter airlines, commuter airlines, air tour operators, and aircraft manufacturers, to develop a Safety Management System (SMS). The requirement of an SMS will take a proactive approach to managing safety, meaning accidents can be prevented and lives can be saved. 
  • A final rule to update regulations surrounding the transportation of hazardous materials to improve safety during shipment and increase supply chain efficiency. The updated regulation makes shipping safer, streamlines the transport of essential products — including medical supplies, batteries, and components used in manufacturing — and encourages shippers to package goods more efficiently. 

Consumer Wins: 

Under the Biden-Harris Administration, DOT has advanced the largest expansion of airline passenger rights, issued the biggest fines against airlines for failing consumers, and returned more money to passengers in refunds and reimbursements than ever before in the Department’s history. 

DOT’s recent work to protect consumers includes: 

  • A final rule to require airlines to provide automatic cash refunds to passengers when owed. The rule makes clear that airline passengers are entitled to a refund when their flight is canceled or significantly changed and they no longer wish to take that flight or be rebooked, when their checked baggage is significantly delayed, or when extra services they paid for – like Wi-Fi – are not provided. The rule also requires refunds to be automatic, prompt, in the original form of payment, and in the full amount paid. 
  • A final rule to protect consumers from costly surprise airline junk fees. The rule creates a more competitive airline market by requiring airlines to disclose critical extra fees – like change fees and baggage fees – upfront to ensure consumers can better understand the true cost of air travel. The rule also bans “bait-and-switch” advertising tactics and requires airlines to clearly tell passengers upfront that a seat is included with the cost of their ticket. This rule is expected to save consumers over half a billion dollars every year. 
  • Launching the flightrights.gov dashboard, after which all 10 major U.S. airlines guaranteed free rebooking and meals when an airline issue causes a significant delay or cancellation. These are new commitments the airlines added to their customer service plans that DOT can legally ensure they adhere to through enforcement action. 
  • Returning nearly $4 billion in refunds and reimbursements owed to airline passengers – including over $600 million to passengers affected by the Southwest Airlines holiday meltdown in 2022. 
  • Issuing over $168 million in penalties against airlines for consumer protection violations. In comparison, between 1996 and 2020, DOT collectively issued less than $71 million in penalties against airlines for consumer protection violations. 
  • Partnering with a bipartisan group of state attorneys general to fast-track the review of consumer complaints, hold airlines accountable, and protect the rights of the traveling public. 
  • Pushing the flight cancellation rate in the U.S. to a record low in 2023 at under 1.2% — the lowest rate of flight cancellations in over 10 years despite a record amount of air travel. 
  • Launching its first ever industry-wide review of airline privacy practices. 
  • Partnering with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to hold a public hearing to help ensure airline loyalty programs and co-branded credit cards are fair, transparent, and are not anti-competitive. The hearing is part of DOT’s first ever industry review of airline loyalty programs. 
  • Issuing a final rule to require lavatories on single-aisle aircraft to be more accessible for the millions of wheelchair users in the U.S. This final rule will help ensure that America’s air transportation system is accessible to individuals with disabilities. 

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Official news published at https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/getting-results-us-department-transportations-efforts-early-biden-harris

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