Senate Considers Surface Transportation Security

Hazardous materials receive much of the attention in the Surface Transportation and Rail Security Act of 2007. That’s the title of a working draft of a Senate bill that, at press time, had not yet been introduced and assigned a bill number. The bill addresses rail, bus, truck and pipeline security and, according to Senators Stevens and Inouye, follows up on the port security act passed in 2006. It would re-establish the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) as the lead agency in surface transportation security matters and allocate $1.25 billion for TSA over the next three years.

The bill, as it appeared in draft form, required TSA to conduct a railroad sector threat assessment and submit prioritized recommendations to improve rail security. It would also provide grants to Amtrak and freight railroads to upgrade security.

On the rail side, the bill calls for the Department of Transportation to encourage the use of car tracking for high hazard rail shipments and would require railroads to create threat mitigation plans.

In addition to similar requirements for motor carriers, the bill would subject foreign commercial drivers transporting hazardous materials in the United States to a security background check similar to the practice already in place for U.S. drivers.

Wireless tracking and communication would be required for high hazard shipments moving by truck. Also, carriers would be required to have written plans for highway routes.

Senator Inouye said in a statement, “[This bill] identifies and addresses the numerous lingering shortcomings that currently exist in these systems and provides the Transportation Security Administration with the necessary guidance needed to improve the protection of our essential transportation infrastructure.”

The legislation also would establish a program to review and enforce hazardous materials security plans for shippers of hazardous materials.

The bill includes grants for rail security upgrades that extend not only to the railroads but also to hazardous material shippers.

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