The Rail Security Alliance has welcomed the “Freight Rail Assistance and Investment to Launch Coronavirus-era Activity and Recovery Act” (Freight RAILCAR Act), introduced by U.S. Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL-10) and Darin LaHood (R-IL-18) on August 24.
The bipartisan tax legislation aims to ensure that North America’s freight railcar fleet is modernized with higher capacity and more fuel-efficient freight railcars, and that the industry’s family-wage, manufacturing and supply jobs are not put at risk. Additional original sponsors include House Transportation and Infrastructure Rail Subcommittee Chairman Dan Lipinski (D-IL-3) and Ranking Member Rick Crawford (R-AR-1) and, along with Schneider and LaHood, House Committee on Ways and Means colleagues Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03) and Drew Ferguson (R-GA-3).
Erik Olson, Rail Security Alliance vice president, said: “We are grateful for the leadership of Representatives Schneider and LaHood, and for the other members, for introducing the Freight RAILCAR Act. The timing of this legislation could not be more important to our nation as we seek a strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Alliance says foreign adversaries, including state-owned enterprises backed by the Chinese government, are using the dire circumstances of the pandemic to flood global markets with inferior steel products, including materials used in manufacturing both freight and passenger railcars. It adds that any further hit to this industry could be devastating, and says the Freight RAILCAR Act includes important safeguards to ensure that these adversaries do not take advantage of any tax benefits provided in the bill.
According to a 2017 report, the domestic rolling stock industry contributed more than $6.5 billion to the American economy in gross domestic product (GDP) and supported 65,000 jobs.
“Without the investment and protections that the Freight RAILCAR Act encourages, the U.S. risks the permanent loss of tens of thousands of high-paying domestic manufacturing jobs that make American freight and railway suppliers such big contributors to our country’s GDP,” Olson said. “The RAILCAR Act also safeguards the cornerstone of America’s critical infrastructure and transportation systems.”
Provisions in the Freight RAILCAR Act also encourage use of high-strength, lightweight materials; innovative designs; and advanced technologies that ensure railcars carry greater loads and use less fuel, therefore reducing greenhouse gases.