House bill would outlaw hazmat shipments by remote control

Congressman Gene Green (D-TX) has introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would prohibit railroads from using remote control locomotives to transport hazardous materials.

Members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen are asked to contact their Representatives in support of Congressman Green's bill, H.R. 5119.

"There is no independent analysis of hazmat remote control locomotive security risks," Congressman Green wrote in a Dear Colleague letter circulated on Capitol Hill. "Since hazmat remote control locomotives are potentially much greater risks than manned hazmat trains, especially on main tracks and over public grade crossings, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and railroads should demonstrate remote control hazmat trains are safe before allowing them to freely operate."

According to the bill, "No railroad carrier shall operate or cause to be operated on the general system of railroad transportation a remote control locomotive to carry hazardous materials A railroad carrier that knowingly violates this section or a rule issued under this section is liable to the United States Government for a civil penalty of at least $5,000 but not more than $50,000 for each violation."

In his Dear Colleague letter, Congressman Green noted that terrorists frequently attack transportation targets at critical times to take advantage of the available destructive power, such as an airplane full of jet fuel or, potentially, a remote control train carrying hazardous materials.

"On a plane full of jet fuel, the last line of defense is the pilots in the cockpit, so we armed pilots and hardened cockpit doors," he wrote. "Since neither security nor safety of remote control is conclusively established, I am introducing precautionary legislation to secure remote control trains and prohibit hazmat cargos."

In September, a remote control train was involved in a hazardous material spill in East St. Louis that forced 140 people living near the tracks to be evacuated from their homes.

BLET members can support this legislation by contacting their Representatives and asking them to co-sponsor H.R. 5119. Members can call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, or they can contact their Representatives via the Internet at:

The measure currently has seven co-sponsors, including: Kevin Brady (R-TX); Julia Carson (D-IN); Bob Filner (D-CA); Nick Lampson (D-TX); Silvestre Reyes (D-TX); Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX); and Tim Ryan (D-OH).



© 2004 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen