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Industry, too, wants action on tank-car safety

When the regulatees basically come out and ask to be regulated, it’s time for the regulators to regulate.

This is the conclusion on tank-car safety that one draws from the columns on today’s page, which are by the presidents of two key trade associations — the Association of American Railroads and the Railway Supply Institute.

Edward Hamberger, president and CEO of the former, is blunt: “Last November, the Association of American Railroads urged the U.S. Department of Transportation to push for improved federal tank-car safety standards.

“Our view is that all tank cars transporting flammable liquids — including crude — should be retrofitted or phased out, and new cars built to more stringent standards.”

Clearly, the retrofitting of old cars and the building of new cars is going to cost the railroads in Hamberger’s association a lot of money. But if all of the railroads must bear the same cost, then few or none will be competitively disadvantaged by it.

That’s one reason, of course, why regulation is a vital supplement to individual companies acting on their own.

Furthermore, the tank-car manufacturers themselves also are encouraging the government to approve the new rules, Tom Simpson of the Railway Supply Institute writes.

“Over the past 28 months, RSI and our members have been waiting on a government-issued standard,” Simpson writes.

The certainty of this standard “literally will reshape the tank-car industry for the benefit of all involved.

“Now, it has become imperative for the government to move, in coordination with the railroads, the shippers and the tank-car manufacturers and lessors, to ensure the safe delivery of crude and ethanol.”

So, to sum up:

Senators and representatives want the U.S. government to act. Governors want the U.S. government to act. The public wants the U.S. government to act, especially those members of the public who live near rail lines.

And now, it turns out, the railroad companies and the rail-car manufacturers also want the U.S. government to act.

Sounds like it’s time for the U.S. government to act.