Department of Transportation

RSAC History

In 1996, FRA established the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) to develop new regulatory standards, through a collaborative process, with all segments of the rail community working together to fashion mutually satisfactory solutions on safety regulatory issues.

RSAC Purpose

The Committee shall seek agreement on the facts and data underlying any real or perceived safety problems; identify cost effective solutions based on the agreed-upon facts; and identify regulatory options where necessary to implement those solutions. In determining whether regulations are necessary, the Committee shall take into account section 1(a) of Executive Order 12866 (Regulatory Planning and Review).

RSAC Regulatory Philosophy

Federal agencies should promulgate only such regulations as are required by law, are necessary to interpret the law, or are made necessary by compelling public need, such as material failures of private markets to protect or improve the health and safety of the public, the environment, or the well-being of the American people. In deciding whether and how to regulate, agencies should assess all costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives, including the alternative of not regulating. Costs and benefits shall be understood to include both quantifiable measures (to the fullest extent that these can be usefully estimated) and qualitative measures of costs and benefits that are difficult to quantify, but nevertheless essential to consider. Further, in choosing among alternative regulatory approaches, agencies should select those approaches that maximize net benefits (including potential economic, environmental, public health and safety, and other advantages; distributive impacts; and equity), unless a statute requires another regulatory approach.

The resultant rules must be reasonable, clear, effective, and enforceable; impose as small a burden as is practicable; and shall, to the extent feasible, specify performance objectives, rather than specifying the behavior or manner of compliance that regulated entities must adopt.

The RSAC will provide advice and recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regarding the development of the railroad safety regulatory program, including issuance of new regulations, review and revision of existing regulations, and identification of non-regulatory alternatives for improvement of railroad safety. Of course, the RSAC's own resource limitations will not permit FRA to refer every safety regulatory task to the RSAC. Moreover, on occasion, the need to address a safety issue in a very expedited way will preclude such a referral.

It is FRA's policy to utilize consensus recommendations of the RSAC as the basis of proposed and final agency action, whenever possible, consistent with applicable law, including guidance from the President. In considering whether to adopt RSAC recommendations, the Administrator weighs the interests of the public at large and the ability of the agency to administer, and, if necessary, to enforce, any requirements that would result from final agency action.

FRA will consult with the RSAC on a periodic basis regarding the development of its regulatory program, advising the RSAC of emerging issues, statutory requirements, and other identified needs. It is the intent of the FRA to consider the views of RSAC members in determining regulatory priorities.

The RSAC provides advice and recommendations on specific tasks assigned to it by FRA. Whenever possible, FRA will consult with the RSAC prior to assigning a task to the committee. As each task is assigned, the RSAC may elect to accept or reject the task, or to recommend that the task be restructured. When a task is assigned, FRA sets a target date for the presentation of the RSAC's recommendations to the Administrator. The target date is based on consultation with the RSAC and may be adjusted by FRA based on further consultation. FRA may withdraw a task from the RSAC at any time. FRA will provide the RSAC an explanation when it does so.