Policy Studies Competition Policy

Barriers to Innovation and Automation in Railway Regulation

Key Points

As technology advances, automation will make it cheaper and easier to inspect all aspects of railroads more often than existing rules allow.
Staffing mandates have no proven safety benefits, so mandating extra crew only puts extra staff in harm’s way. If anything, the extra staffer could distract the train’s engineer.
Automation of passenger railroads has been around for more than 40 years and is the norm with new urban trains. The first automated freight railroads started operating in 2018.

Using past Congressional guidance, the FRA has already stopped the growing problem of safety-based crew size mandates, but they will face similar challenges in the future, as the pressure to put state benefits ahead of national prosperity is not going anywhere. In light of this, Congress will need to step up and clearly assert that state rules that seek to stem railway automation are and will forever be “off track.”

Press Release: TechFreedom and the R Street Institute release policy paper with recommendations in response to FRA’s withdrawal of 2016 NPRM

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