Charles Goetsch
Law Offices LLC
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Protecting Whistleblowers & The Injured

The Staggers Rail Act of 1980, rail deregulation and safety

| Nov 12, 2020 | Whistleblower

Last month, the rail industry marked the 40th anniversary of the Staggers Rail Act of 1980. This federal law was – and still is – widely seen as saving an industry that was “on the brink of ruin,” according to the trade group Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Congress determined that the rail system in this country, which was falling in to disrepair and failing to compete with other modes of transportation for both freight and people, needed better regulation than it had been subject to under the Interstate Commerce Act, which dated back to 1887. The Staggers Rail Act, named for the congressman who introduced it, did away with many regulations, allowing railroad owners more freedom to set their own rates. Meanwhile, according to the AAR, it “preserv[ed] government intervention for those situations where it was needed most.” The Staggers Rail Act, along with the Motor Carrier Act, which was also signed into law that year, helped bring freight rail further into the 20th century.

Some railway experts have expressed concern that the deregulation begun four decades ago has morphed into too much focus on profitability. However, a letter celebrating the Staggers anniversary signed by over 1,000 local and national leaders warned, “Any action inhibiting freight rail investment would threaten economic development and quality of life in our communities, precipitate job losses…and undercut safety, efficiency and productivity across the rail network, affecting all railroads, small and large.”

Deregulation can always lead to safety issues for both consumers and employees if companies don’t take it upon themselves to do everything within their power to ensure safety. Even highly regulated industries can have instances of serious safety lapses.

It’s often the people within those companies who see the lapses first-hand and take the brave step to speak out who can be credited for saving lives. However, being a whistleblower doesn’t come without risks to your job and possibly your career. That’s why it’s essential to seek experienced legal guidance before you take that step.