DOT Withdraws ECP Brake Rule

December 7, 2017

The U.S. Department of Transportation on December 4 announced that it will withdraw a 2015 regulation requiring the use of electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes on certain trains carrying flammable liquids, on the grounds that the safety benefits were inconclusive and the cost-benefit analysis was negative.

The original rule was published in May 2015, but later that year, in response to complaints from railroads, Congress enacted section 7311 of the FAST Act which ordered GAO and Transportation Research Board reviews of the rule, and once those reviews were finished, ordered the Secretary of Transportation to take an “evidence-based approach” to a reevaluation of the rule.

In October 2016, GAO found fault with DOT’s original calculation of the benefits of the rule, and TRB reported two months ago that it was “unable to make a conclusive statement concerning the emergency performance of ECP brakes relative to other braking systems.”

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) then performed a revised cost-benefit analysis, which found that the benefits of the rule could be quantified between $12 and $19 million per year while the costs of the rule would be between $35 and $46 million per year. After a comment period, DOT published a Federal Register notice this week announcing that “after careful review, and as mandated by Section 7311 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the Department of Transportation has reviewed the final updated Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) and determined that the HM-251 Final Rule’s electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brake requirements are not economically justified. As the expected benefits do not exceed the expected costs, PHMSA and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will initiate a rulemaking to rescind the necessary regulatory provisions.”

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