AAR calls on DOT to withdraw brake rule

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) is calling on the Department of Transportation (DOT) to withdraw its rule on electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes after a review released by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO). 

“The GAO’s conclusions validate the freight rail industry’s position that the DOT had negligible data or testing results to justify the mandating of ECP brakes,” said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. “The DOT should withdraw the brake rule and fully implement the GAO’s recommendations.”

The comprehensive GAO report, which was authorized by the 2015 FAST Act, stated the DOT’s Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) lacked the necessary justification to mandate ECP brakes. The RIA also did not contain detailed information on all inputs and assumptions, and the GAO review stated: “Such information is necessary to allow third parties to independently and adequately review DOT’s modeling efforts and assess its conclusions”.

Hamberger said, “Industry research and years of experimenting in real-world operating environments show ECP brakes are unreliable and have a minimal safety impact over conventional braking systems currently in place.”   Hamberger said the freight rail industry supports the GAO’s recommendations directing the DOT to be more transparent by publishing information allowing a third party to fully assess and replicate the analysis, to conduct additional studies on all aspects of ECP braking, and to create a data-collection plan involving the railroads and operational experiences using ECP brakes.   “America’s freight railroads are constantly incorporating new safety critical technologies to make the country’s 140,000-mile rail network even safer, including sophisticated trackside detectors, specialized inspection vehicles and drones to supplement track inspection programs,” added Hamberger, who noted federal statistics show freight rail safety continues to improve with the last five years being the safest on record.