[Federal Register: April 28, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 82)]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
49 CFR Part 392
[Docket No. FMCSA-1998-4202]
Railroad Grade Crossing Safety; Withdrawal
AGENCY: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT.
ACTION: Withdrawal of notice of proposed rulemaking.
SUMMARY: FMCSA withdraws a July 30, 1998, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
(NPRM) that would have prohibited the driver of a commercial motor
vehicle (CMV) from driving onto a highway-railroad grade crossing
without sufficient space to drive completely through the crossing
without stopping. The NPRM was issued in response to section 112 of the
Hazardous Materials Transportation Authorization Act of 1994.
After careful analysis and review of the comments, FMCSA has
concluded [[Page 25129]] that the NPRM gave a misleading impression of the statutory mandate and
the cost and complexity of complying with an implementing regulation.
FMCSA is therefore withdrawing the 1998 NPRM in order to eliminate the
confusion associated with this rulemaking. The agency, however, will
issue a simpler and more clearly written new NPRM addressing the
requirements of section 112.
DATES: The notice of proposed rulemaking published on July 30, 1998, at
63 FR 40691, is withdrawn as of April 28, 2006.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Larry W. Minor, Director, Office of
Bus and Truck Standards and Operations, (202) 366-4009, Federal Motor
Carrier Safety Administration (MC-PS), 400--7th Street, SW.,
Washington, DC 20590; or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How can you get a copy of this publication?
You can visit the following Web sites to get copies:
(1) U.S. DOT Dockets Management System (DMS) using the URL http://dms.dot.gov/search
, and type the last four digits (4202) to access the docket;
(2) Today's Federal Register at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/; and (3) FMCSA at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov.
On July 30, 1998, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA, or the
Agency) published an NPRM (63 FR 40691) to prohibit CMV operators from
driving onto a railroad grade crossing without having sufficient space
to drive completely through without stopping (and thus leaving a
portion of the CMV across the tracks), as required by Section 112 of
the Hazardous Materials Transportation Authorization Act of 1994 (Pub.
L. 103-311, 108 Stat. 1673, at 1676, August 26, 1994). On November 9,
1999, the then Department of Transportation's Office of Motor Carrier
Safety (DOT OMCS) (and previously FHWA's Office of Motor Carriers) held
a public meeting to discuss highway-rail grade crossing accidents. A
transcript of the meeting was placed in the docket.
As stated in the report by the Senate Committee on Commerce,
Science, and Transportation (December 9, 1993), the goal of the
provision in Senate Bill 1640, which later became Section 112, was to:
"* * * improve safety at highway-railroad crossings in response to
fatalities that have occurred from accidents involving commercial motor
vehicle operators who failed to use proper caution while crossing* * *
[T]he Committee believes that imposing a Federal statutory obligation
on drivers of all commercial motor vehicles to consider whether they
can cross safely and completely * * * will help to reduce the number of
tragedies associated with grade-crossing accidents" [S. Rep. No. 103-
217, at 11 (1994), reprinted in 1994 U.S.C.C.A.N. 1763, 1773].
The NPRM noted that many factors could prevent a CMV operator from
driving completely through a grade crossing without stopping, such as a
stop sign or other traffic control device beyond the crossing in close
proximity to the tracks, or the presence of other vehicles or obstacles
in the roadway beyond the crossing. The agency also noted that
crossings with 12.2 meters (40 feet), or less, between the tracks and a
stop sign could not accommodate a tractor-trailer combination 18.3
meters (60 feet) long. The States were therefore asked to submit data
on the number and locations of highway-railroad grade crossings that
could not accommodate the longest CMVs legally permitted to operate in
each State if the proposed rule were adopted. The NPRM also asked for
information on alternative routes that truckers could use if a
particular crossing were unavailable because of their compliance with
the proposed rule. Motor carriers were asked to assess the impact of
the proposed rule on their operations and advise FHWA of their
conclusions. FHWA asked the States to respond within two months, and
motor carriers and others within four months.
Discussion of Comments
Forty-five comments were received in response to the NPRM. The
commenters included thirty-five (35) State agencies, the Association of
American Railroads (AAR), the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the
National School Transportation Association (NSTA), the Greater
Cleveland Transit Authority (Cleveland Transit), New Jersey Transit,
Florida East Coast Railway Co. (Florida Railway), Guttman Oil Co., KLD
Associates, Thompson Trucking, and Walter A. McDonald, a retired State
Most State agencies said it would be difficult to comply with the
proposed data request; several requested extensions of time of a year
or more to complete their inventory of grade crossings. Other State
agencies said that compliance with the NPRM would be a major effort
requiring Federal funding. With three exceptions, the respondents
believed the proposed rule was impractical and virtually impossible to
implement. NSTA, AAR, and Florida Railway supported the proposed rule
and believed it would improve safety. AAR said it was a logical
extension of many existing State laws that prohibit all vehicles from
stopping on railroad tracks.
As discussed below, four areas of contention have been identified.
Objection to FHWA's Information Request
Rather than expending the financial and human resources to
inventory all crossings, three State agencies suggested addressing
specific crossings on a location-by-location basis and considering
factors such as crash history, rail traffic and travel speed, roadway
traffic volume, road and railway alignment grade, and available storage
distance. Kansas questioned the expenditure of its resources to collect
the information request in the NPRM. North Carolina said it did not
have the money, time, or personnel to comply with the request. Wyoming
and New Jersey believed the request was too general and did not provide
sufficient detail to answer the questions contained in the NPRM.
Wyoming suggested that specific parameters be identified to ensure
uniformity of the measurements and data collected in each State.
Lack of Feasibility of the Proposed Rule
Several States said the proposed rule would require major road and
railroad improvements to facilitate compliance, because alternate
routes are not always available. They also said implementing the rule
would be a barrier to inter- and intrastate commerce because of its
significant financial impact. Two State agencies and a motor carrier
noted that the designs of some grade crossings do not permit clearance
of the railroad tracks and that such crossings are often the only route
to a specific location. One of the few motor carriers that responded to
the NPRM suggested that all crossings have at least 90 to 100 feet of
clear space between the tracks and any traffic control device, and that
advanced signals be installed to alert train engineers of track
blockage. Iowa reported that it has 2,113 grade crossings within 75
feet of a street of highway intersection, but it noted that most of the
crossings are on railroad branch lines with infrequent service, low
operating speeds, and good visibility; vehicle traffic at these
crossings is also low. Iowa argued that Federal regulations are
inappropriate in light of the accident history of many crossings and
the fact that these histories change over time because of local
Wisconsin believed the proposed rule was workable for intersections
and grade crossings controlled by traffic signals, but not for
crossings near intersections that are controlled by stop or yield
signs. Wisconsin suggested postponing the effectiveness of the rule
until the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) was changed
to address the issue of traffic signals at such intersections/
crossings. Nevada said all but one its grade crossings are in rural
areas, and all but two are poor candidates for traffic signals. Nevada
said signalization for the crossings was probably five to ten years in
the future and that relocating the railways or closing the crossings
was not feasible. Nevada said relocation of roadways is limited by
geography and economic development and that truck advisory signs would
be more appropriate for the affected crossings, thus limiting overall
improvements to installation of signage.
New Jersey said replacing stop signs with traffic signals would
further impede traffic flow already interrupted by many signals, but
agreed that it is feasible and desirable to interconnect traffic
signals and adjust timing where signals already exist.
Pennsylvania said it might be possible to locate a stop sign or
traffic control device in some locations so that vehicles encounter it
before entering the crossing. However, Pennsylvania noted that apart
from these potential solutions, safety improvements become very
expensive or politically difficult to enact.
Economic Impact of the Proposed Rule
Oklahoma and California argued that Federal funding was necessary
to implement the rule. Connecticut believed manpower requirements for
design and construction of crossing improvements, including the
financial impacts, would likely exceed resources available to State and
local agencies and private owners. The State estimated the cost of
installing signals that would be activated by the approach of a train
at approximately $280,000 (per crossing, presumably). Connecticut
suggested instituting a Federal program with a funding source dedicated
exclusively to the problem of limited storage distance at grade
Burden and Costs of Compliance Far Exceed the Anticipated Benefits
Kansas said it did not have adequate information to identify
accidents related to insufficient storage space. The State said that
its accident statistics for the previous eight years revealed 109 CMV-
train accidents, or 13.6 per year, and that even if all of these
accidents were caused by the problem of inadequate storage space, the
proposed rule would be addressing a relatively minor problem. Indiana
believed storage space was not a significant factor in its accident
record. The State said that, in the past five years, only 6.4 percent
of train-vehicle collisions (78 out of 1,213) involved truck-trailer
combination vehicles, and, of those, only 38 accidents (3.1 percent of
the total) were at a highway-railroad grade crossing near an
intersection. Indiana said even if all 38 accidents were due to storage
problems, which it called unlikely, they would still represent only a
small part of the State's overall accident exposure.
Pennsylvania said there were 692,138 accidents in the State from
1993 through 1997, but only 31 involved CMVs and trains and none of
those accidents involved vehicles approaching a highway-railroad
intersection where traffic was stopped at a traffic control device.
Pennsylvania did not believe that the proposed rule would have a major
impact on safety or that it would be appropriate to initiate a labor-
intensive, field inventory effort to collect the information requested.
Wisconsin said it averaged one fatal train-truck accident every
five years, or about 3 percent of total train-vehicle fatal accidents.
The Public Meeting
The DOT OMCS held a public meeting on November 9, 1999, which
generated extensive testimony and discussion regarding the issue of
highway-rail grade crossing safety. A transcript of the meeting is in
the docket for this rulemaking. The discussion focused on initiatives
that could be taken to prevent train-vehicle collisions at grade
crossings, but not on the feasibility or advisability of the proposed
rule. The potential options discussed involved changes to the grade
crossing environment, such as changes to traffic control devices near
grade crossings; policy changes, such as developing programs that would
allow CMVs to select routes to avoid grade crossings near traffic
control devices; and educating CMV operators on actions to take if a
CMV becomes incapacitated on a crossing.
After reviewing the comments to the NPRM and the transcript of the
public meeting, FMCSA has concluded that this rulemaking has created a
great deal of misunderstanding and should be terminated.
FHWA asked the States for information on the number and location of
highway-railroad grade crossings with inadequate storage space--and on
alternative crossings--as the first step in estimating the costs and
benefits of the rule required by Section 112. In view of the expected
complexity of that analysis, the Agency needed as much information as
possible. Many State agencies, however, seem to have assumed that they
were required to provide the information; that the final rule would
then require them to reconstruct, rewire, reroute or otherwise correct
every inadequate crossing; and that the Agency was indifferent to the
costs of such an undertaking. In fact, the time, difficulty and cost
involved in collecting reliable data on highway-railroad grade
crossings became a primary focus of the comments.
Section 112 requires a rule applicable to motor carriers, not to
States. If the regulatory requirement prevented some motor carriers
from using a particular crossing because the storage space is too short
for their normal vehicles, several options are available (such as
switching to shorter trucks or using alternate crossings) before any
reconstruction efforts suggested by the State commenters need to be
considered. And even then, significant civil engineering projects are
likely to have a low priority. Consultations among government entities,
truckers, and the shippers they serve might produce quick and simple
Therefore, FMCSA terminates this rulemaking and will open a new one
less burdened by previous misunderstandings. An NPRM to address the
requirements of Section 112 will be published when additional analysis
of grade crossing problems, which is now under way, has been completed.
In view of the foregoing, this rulemaking proceeding is terminated.
Issued on: April 24, 2006.
Warren E. Hoemann,
[FR Doc. E6-6424 Filed 4-27-06; 8:45 am]
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