49 U.S. Code § 20142 - Track safety

§ 20142.
Track safety
(a)Review of Existing Regulations.—Not later than March 3, 1993, the Secretary of Transportation shall begin a review of Department of Transportation regulations related to track safety standards. The review at least shall include an evaluation of—
procedures associated with maintaining and installing continuous welded rail and its attendant structure, including cold weather installation procedures;
the need for revisions to regulations on track excepted from track safety standards; and
employee safety.
(b)Revision of Regulations.—
Not later than September 1, 1995, the Secretary shall prescribe regulations and issue orders to revise track safety standards, considering safety information presented during the review under subsection (a) of this section and the report of the Comptroller General submitted under subsection (c) of this section.
(c)Comptroller General’s Study and Report.—
The Comptroller General shall study the effectiveness of the Secretary’s enforcement of track safety standards, with particular attention to recent relevant railroad accident experience and information. Not later than September 3, 1993, the Comptroller General shall submit a report to Congress and the Secretary on the results of the study, with recommendations for improving enforcement of those standards.
(d)Identification of Internal Rail Defects.—In carrying out subsections (a) and (b), the Secretary shall consider whether or not to prescribe regulations and issue orders concerning—
inspection procedures to identify internal rail defects, before they reach imminent failure size, in rail that has significant shelling; and
any specific actions that should be taken when a rail surface condition, such as shelling, prevents the identification of internal defects.
(e) Track Standards.—
(1)In general.—Within 90 days after the date of enactment of this subsection, the Federal Railroad Administration shall—
require each track owner using continuous welded rail track to include procedures (in its procedures filed with the Administration pursuant to section 213.119 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations) to improve the identification of cracks in rail joint bars;
instruct Administration track inspectors to obtain copies of the most recent continuous welded rail programs of each railroad within the inspectors’ areas of responsibility and require that inspectors use those programs when conducting track inspections; and
establish a program to review continuous welded rail joint bar inspection data from railroads and Administration track inspectors periodically.
Whenever the Administration determines that it is necessary or appropriate, the Administration may require railroads to increase the frequency of inspection, or improve the methods of inspection, of joint bars in continuous welded rail.
(Pub. L. 103–272, § 1(e), July 5, 1994, 108 Stat. 879; Pub. L. 103–440, title II, § 208, Nov. 2, 1994, 108 Stat. 4621; Pub. L. 109–59, title IX, § 9005(a), Aug. 10, 2005, 119 Stat. 1924.)

Historical and Revision Notes



Source (U.S. Code)

Source (Statutes at Large)


45:431(s)(1) (1st sentence), (2).

Oct. 16, 1970, Pub. L. 91–458, 84 Stat. 971, § 202(s); added Sept. 3, 1992, Pub. L. 102–365, § 8, 106 Stat. 976.


45:431(s)(1) (last sentence).



In subsection (c), the word “information” is substituted for “data” for consistency in the revised title.

References in Text

The date of enactment of this subsection, referred to in subsec. (e)(1), is the date of enactment of Pub. L. 109–59, which was approved Aug. 10, 2005.


2005—Subsec. (e). Pub. L. 109–59 added subsec. (e).

1994—Subsec. (a)(1). Pub. L. 103–440, § 208(2), inserted “, including cold weather installation procedures” after “attendant structure”.

Subsec. (b). Pub. L. 103–440, § 208(1), substituted “September 1, 1995” for “September 3, 1994”.

Subsec. (d). Pub. L. 103–440, § 208(3), added subsec. (d).

Commuter Rail Track Inspections

Pub. L. 114–94, div. A, title XI, § 11409, Dec. 4, 2015, 129 Stat. 1684, provided that:

“(a)In General.—
The Secretary [of Transportation] shall evaluate track inspection regulations to determine if a railroad carrier providing commuter rail passenger transportation on high density commuter railroad lines should be required to inspect the lines in the same manner as is required for other commuter railroad lines.
“(b)Rulemaking.—Considering safety, including railroad carrier employee and contractor safety, system capacity, and other relevant factors, the Secretary may promulgate a rule for high density commuter railroad lines. If, after the evaluation under subsection (a), the Secretary determines that it is necessary to promulgate a rule, the Secretary shall specifically consider the following regulatory requirements for high density commuter railroad lines:
“(1) At least once every 2 weeks—
traverse each main line by vehicle; or
inspect each main line on foot.
At least once each month, traverse and inspect each siding by vehicle or by foot.
If, after the evaluation under subsection (a), the Secretary determines it is not necessary to revise the regulations under this section, the Secretary, not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of this Act [Dec. 4, 2015], shall transmit to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives a report explaining the reasons for not revising the regulations.
Nothing in this section may be construed to limit the authority of the Secretary to promulgate regulations or issue orders under any other law.”

Track Inspection Time Study

Pub. L. 110–432, div. A, title IV, § 403, Oct. 16, 2008, 122 Stat. 4884, provided that:

“(a)Study.—Not later that [sic] 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act [Oct. 16, 2008], the Secretary shall transmit to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate a report containing the results of a study to determine whether—
the required intervals of track inspections for each class of track should be amended;
track remedial action requirements should be amended;
different track inspection and repair priorities or methods should be required; and
the speed at which railroad track inspection vehicles operate and the scope of the territory they generally cover allow for proper inspection of the track and whether such speed and appropriate scope should be regulated by the Secretary.
“(b)Considerations.—In conducting the study the Secretary shall consider—
the most current rail flaw, rail defect growth, rail fatigue, and other relevant track- or rail-related research and studies;
the availability and feasibility of developing and implementing new or novel rail inspection technology for routine track inspections;
information from National Transportation Safety Board or Federal Railroad Administration accident investigations where track defects were the cause or a contributing cause; and
other relevant information, as determined by the Secretary.
“(c)Update of Regulations.—
Not later than 2 years after the completion of the study required by subsection (a), the Secretary shall prescribe regulations based on the results of the study conducted under subsection (a).
“(d)Concrete Cross Ties.—Not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of this Act [Oct. 16, 2008], the Secretary shall promulgate regulations for concrete cross ties. In developing the regulations for class 1 through 5 track, the Secretary may address, as appropriate—
limits for rail seat abrasion;
concrete cross tie pad wear limits;
missing or broken rail fasteners;
loss of appropriate toeload pressure;
improper fastener configurations; and
excessive lateral rail movement.”

[For definitions of “Secretary” and “railroad”, as used in section 403 of Pub. L. 110–432, set out above, see section 2(a) of Pub. L. 110–432, set out as a note under section 20102 of this title.]

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49 CFR - Transportation



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