Logo Color


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators JD Vance (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), along with Senators Rubio (R-FL), Hawley (R-MO), Casey (D-PA), and Fetterman (D-PA), will introduce legislation, The Railway Safety Act of 2023, today to prevent future train disasters like the derailment that devastated East Palestine, Ohio. The bill will take a number of key steps to improve rail safety protocols, such as enhancing safety procedures for trains carrying hazardous materials, establishing requirements for wayside defect detectors, creating a permanent requirement for railroads to operate with at least two-person crews, increasing fines for wrongdoing committed by rail carriers, and more.

“Through this legislation, Congress has a real opportunity to ensure that what happened in East Palestine will never happen again. We owe every American the peace of mind that their community is protected from a catastrophe of this kind,” said Senator Vance. “Action to prevent future disasters is critical, but we must never lose sight of the needs of the Ohioans living in East Palestine and surrounding communities. One day, the TV cameras will leave, and the news cycle will move on, but the needs of those Ohioans will remain. I will never stop fighting to deliver the support they need.”

“It shouldn’t take a massive railroad disaster for elected officials to put partisanship aside and work together for the people we serve – not corporations like Norfolk Southern,” said Senator Brown. “Rail lobbyists have fought for years to protect their profits at the expense of communities like East Palestine and Steubenville and Sandusky. These commonsense bipartisan safety measures will finally hold big railroad companies accountable, make our railroads and the towns along them safer, and prevent future tragedies, so no community has to suffer like East Palestine again.”

“Congress should do everything it can to ensure that what happened in East Palestine never happens again,” said Senator Rubio. “For far too long, the rail industry, and the government agencies that regulate it, have prioritized their bottom line over safety and resiliency. This comprehensive bill would help prevent future catastrophic derailments.”

“What happened in East Palestine was a horrific tragedy,” said Senator Hawley. “The safety regulations governing our nation’s railroads must be updated to ensure that a disaster like this never happens again.”

“The Norfolk Southern train derailment left Pennsylvania and Ohio families, businesses, and first responders grappling with a disaster that spilled hazardous materials in their community. It shouldn’t have happened here and it shouldn’t happen anywhere else in America,” said Senator Casey. “The Railway Safety Act will make freight rail safer, hold rail companies accountable for putting communities and workers in harm’s way, and protect people over profits.”

The text of the bill can be read here

The Railway Safety Act of 2023 Would:

  • Enhance safety procedures for trains carrying hazardous materials by:
    • Including new safety requirements and procedures for trains carrying hazardous materials like vinyl chloride
    • Requiring rail carriers to provide advance notification and information to state emergency response officials about what they are transporting
    • Creating new requirements to prevent blocked railroad crossings
    • Mitigating derailment risk with rules for train size and weight
  • Reduce the risk of wheel bearing failures by:
    • Establishing requirements for wayside defect detectors
    • Requiring trains carrying hazardous materials to be scanned by hotbox detectors every 10 miles
    • Strengthening inspection requirements for rail cars of trains carrying hazardous materials
  • Require well-trained, two-person crews aboard every train
  • Force rail carriers to face heightened fines for wrongdoing by:
    • Substantially increasing the maximum fines USDOT can issue for safety violations
  • Support communities impacted by rail disasters by:
    • Expanding HAZMAT training grants for local law enforcement and first responders through increased registration fees paid by Class I railroads
  • Invest in future safety improvements by:
    • Providing $22,000,000 to the Federal Railroad Administration for research and development grants regarding wayside defect detectors and other rail priorities
    • Providing $5,000,000 to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for expenses related to developing stronger tank car safety features