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ROSB Regulatory Authority, Rules, and Regulations

CPUC is the State regulatory agency with legal authority for rail safety within California.  ROSB is responsible for enforcing state and federal laws, regulations, Commission General Orders, and directives relating to the transportation of persons and commodities by rail. Several California Public Utilities Code Sections prescribe CPUC responsibilities.  In particular, under Section 309.7, CPUC is responsible for inspection, surveillance, and investigation of the rights-of-way, facilities, equipment, and operations of railroads and public mass transit guideways (a limited access rail that is not part of the general rail system).


Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 212, “State Safety Participation Regulations,” formally establishes the Commission’s relationship with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and affirms the commitment both agencies share toward ensuring rail safety within California.   Under the authority of Public Utilities Code Sections 309.7(b), 421(g), and 765.5(c), Commission rail Inspectors are federally-certified to enforce state and federal laws, regulations, orders, and directives pertaining to rail transportation.  ROSB makes civil penalty recommendations to the FRA when ROSB Inspectors discover non-compliances with federal railroad safety regulations.


Public Utilities Code Sections 309.7 and 765.5(d) require the Commission to employ a sufficient number of federally-certified Inspectors to ensure that railroad locomotives and equipment and facilities located in Class I railroad yards in California are inspected not less frequently than every 120 days, and that all main and branch line tracks are inspected not less frequently than every 12 months. In performing its duties, SED consults with representatives of railroad corporations, labor organizations representing railroad employees, and the FRA.  Under Section 765.5(e), the Commission also conducts focused inspections of railroad yards and track, either in coordination with the FRA, or as the Commission determines to be necessary. The focused inspection program targets railroad yards and track that pose the greatest safety risk, based on inspection data, accident history, and rail traffic density.


Public Utilities Code Section 765.5(b) requires the Commission to “dedicate sufficient resources to implement the State Participation Program to regulate the rail transportation of hazardous materials as authorized by the Hazardous Materials Uniform Safety Act of 1990 (P.L.101-615).”  The Commission employs federally-certified Railroad Safety Inspectors to fulfill this mission. Inspectors conduct a variety of activities, including the investigation of accidents involving the actual threatened release of hazardous materials as reported by the California Emergency Management Agency’s (CEMA) 24-hour Warning Center.  Inspectors also conduct unannounced inspections at the facilities of shippers, consignees, freight forwarders, intermodal transportation companies, and railroads.


The Local Community Rail Security Act of 2006 (Public Utilities Code Sections 7665-7667) requires all rail operators to provide security risk assessments to CPUC, the Director of Homeland Security, and CEMA that describe the following:


  • Location and function of each rail facility
  • Types of cargo stored at or typically moved through the facility
  •  Hazardous cargo stored at or moved through the facility
  •  Frequency of hazardous movements or storage
  •  A description of sabotage-terrorism countermeasures
  •  Employee training programs
  • Emergency response procedures
  •  Emergency response communication protocols

In compliance with this Act, ROSB Inspectors conduct an annual Security Review Audit at each railroad located in California. 


Rules established by the Commission are called General Orders or GOs.  Commission General Orders cover regulatory requirements such as the reporting of accidents on railroads, clearances on railroad and street railroads as to side and overhead structures, parallel tracks and crossings, and posting of railroad timetables and changes.  General Orders enforced by ROSB include: 


  •  GO 22-B – Reports of accidents on railroads
  • GO 26-D – Clearances on railroads and street railroads a to side and overhead structures, parallel tracks and crossings
  • GO 27-B – Filing and posting of railroad timetables and changes
  • GO 118-A – Construction, reconstruction and maintenance of walkways and control of vegetation adjacent to railroad tracks
  •  GO 135 – Occupancy of public grade crossings by railroads
  •  GO 161 – Rules and regulations governing the transportation of hazardous materials by rail


The CPUC General Orders Index Page has links to the texts of all GOs:


Commission Resolution ROSB-002 established a civil penalty citation program for enforcing compliance with safety requirements for railroad carriers throughout California.  In 2011, ROSB issued two citations under this Resolution for violations of GO 26-D.  The violations totaled $60,000, which was deposited to the State General Fund.

Last Modified: 1/15/2013

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