Federal laws, State laws, and CPUC General Orders on Railroads

CPUC has legal regulatory authority over rail safety within California. ROSB is responsible for enforcing both state and federal laws, regulations, Commission General Orders, and directives relating to the transportation of persons and commodities by rail.

Federal Law

Federal law establishes a close relationship between states and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and affirms the commitment both entities share toward ensuring rail safety. Under California Public Utilities Codes, CPUC rail safety inspectors are federally certified to enforce both state and federal laws, regulations, orders, and directives related to rail transportation. ROSB makes civil penalty recommendations to the FRA when ROSB inspectors discover non-compliance with federal regulations. (Related: Public Utilities Code sections: 309.7(b), 421(g), and 765.5(c))

Public Utilities Code

  • Section 309.7
    The Safety and Enforcement Division (SED) of the CPUC shall be responsible for inspection, surveillance, and investigation of the rights-of-way, facilities, equipment, and operations of railroads and public mass transit guideways, and for enforcing state and federal laws, regulations, orders, and directives relating to transportation of persons or commodities, or both, of any nature or description by rail. SED shall advise the commission on all matters relating to rail safety, and shall propose to the commission rules, regulations, orders, and other measures necessary to reduce the dangers caused by unsafe conditions on the railroads of the state. SED shall exercise all powers of investigation granted to the commission, including rights to enter upon land or facilities, inspect books and records, and compel testimony. The commission shall employ sufficient federally certified inspectors to ensure at the time of inspection that railroad locomotives and equipment and facilities located in class I railroad yards in California are inspected not less frequently than every 180 days, and all main and branch line tracks are inspected not less frequently than every 12 months. SED shall, with delegated commission attorneys, enforce safety laws, rules, regulations, and orders, and to collect fines and penalties resulting from the violation of any safety rule or regulation. The activities of the consumer protection and safety division that relate to safe operation of common carriers by rail, other than those relating to grade crossing protection, shall also be supported by the fees paid by railroad corporations. (Related: GO 22-B, Resolution ROSB-002)
  • Section 315
    The commission shall investigate the cause of all accidents occurring within this State upon the property of any public utility or directly or indirectly arising from or connected with its maintenance or operation, resulting in loss of life or injury to person or property and requiring, in the judgment of the commission, investigation by it, and may make such order or recommendation with respect thereto as in its judgment seems just and reasonable. (Related: GO 22-B)
  • Section 421
    The commission shall annually determine a fee and is permitted to expend funds for specified purposes. The commission shall hire four additional operating practices inspectors who shall become federally certified.
  • Section 761
    Whenever the commission finds that rules, practices, equipment, appliances, facilities, or service of any public utility are unjust, unreasonable, unsafe, improper, inadequate, or insufficient, the commission shall fix the rules. (Related: GO 27-B)
  • Section 765.5
    The purpose of this section is to provide that the commission takes all appropriate action necessary to ensure the safe operation of railroads in this state. The commission shall dedicate sufficient resources necessary to adequately carry out the State Participation Program for the regulation of rail transportation of hazardous materials as authorized by the Hazardous Material Transportation Uniform Safety Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-615). On or before July 1, 1992, the commission shall hire a minimum of six additional rail inspectors who are or shall become federally certified, consisting of three additional motive power and equipment inspectors, two signal inspectors, and one operating practices inspector, for the purpose of enforcing compliance by railroads operating in this state with state and federal safety regulations. On or before July 1, 1992, the commission shall establish, by regulation, a minimum inspection standard to ensure, at the time of inspection, that railroad locomotives, equipment, and facilities located in class I railroad yards in California will be inspected not less frequently than every 120 days, and inspection of all branch and main line track not less frequently than every 12 months. Commencing July 1, 2008, in addition to the minimum inspections undertaken, the commission shall conduct focused inspections of railroad yards and track, either in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration, or as the commission determines to be necessary. The focused inspection program shall target railroad yards and track that pose the greatest safety risk, based on inspection data, accident history, and rail traffic density.
  • Section 768
    The commission may, after a hearing, require every public utility to construct, maintain, and operate its line, plant, system, equipment, apparatus, tracks, and premises in a manner so as to promote and safeguard the health and safety of its employees, passengers, customers, and the public. The commission may prescribe, among other things, the installation, use, maintenance, and operation of appropriate safety or other devices or appliances, including interlocking and other protective devices at grade crossings or junctions and block or other systems of signaling. The commission may establish uniform or other standards of construction and equipment, and require the performance of any other act which the health or safety of its employees, passengers, customers, or the public may demand. (Related: GO 26-D, GO 72-B, GO 75-D, GO 118-A, GO 126, GO 135)
  • Section 7661
    The commission shall investigate any incident that results in a notification to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES)…and shall report its findings concerning the cause or causes to the commission.
  • Section 7662
    Requires a railroad to place appropriate signage to notify an engineer of an approaching grade crossing and establishes standards for the posting of signage and flags, milepost markers, and permanent speed signs.
  • Section 7665.2
    Requires every operator of rail facilities to provide a risk assessment to the commission and the agency for each rail facility in the state that is under its ownership, operation, or control, and prescribes the elements of the risk assessment.
  • Section 7665.4
    Requires the rail operators to develop an infrastructure protection program, and requires the commission to review the infrastructure protection program submitted by a rail operator. Permits the commission to conduct inspections to facilitate the review, and permits the commission to order a rail operator to improve, modify, or change its program to comply with the requirements of this article. Permits the commission to fine a rail operator for failure to comply with the requirements of this section or an order of the commission pursuant to this section.
  • Section 7665.6
    Requires every rail operator to secure all facilities that handle or store hazardous materials; store hazardous materials only in secure facilities; ensure that the cabs of occupied locomotives are secured from hijacking, sabotage, or terrorism; and, secure remote-control devices. Precludes every rail operator from leaving locomotive equipment running while unattended or unlocked, from using remote control locomotives to move hazardous materials over a public crossing, unless under specified circumstances. (Related: GO 161)
  • Section 7665.8
    Requires every rail operator to provide communications capability to timely alert law enforcement officers, bridge tenders, and rail workers of the local or national threat level for the rail industry, i.e. sabotage, terrorism, or other crimes.
  • Section 7673
    Requires every railroad that transports hazardous materials to provide a system map showing mileposts, stations, terminals, junction points, road crossings, and location of pipelines in its rights of way.
  • Section 7711
    Requires the commission to provide annual report to the Legislature on hazardous sites. Requires the commission to identify local safety hazards on California railroads, and to report on recent California railroad accident history. Specifically, the commission is to list all derailment accident sites in the state on which accidents have occurred within at least the past five years, and indicate whether the accidents occurred at or near sites that the commission has determined to pose a local safety hazard.
  • Section 7711.1
    Requires the commission to collect and analyze near-miss data.

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General Orders

General Orders (GO) 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.

  • 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 72-B
    Uniform standards for grade crossing construction
  • GO 75-D
    Uniform standards for warning devices for at-grade crossings to reduce hazards associated with persons traversing at-grade crossings
  • GO 118-A
    Construction, reconstruction and maintenance of walkways and control of vegetation adjacent to railroad tracks
  • GO 126
    Requirements for the contents of First-Aid kits provided by common carrier railroads
  • GO 161
    Rules and regulations governing the transportation of hazardous materials by rail


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Commission Decisions and Resolutions

The Railroad Citation Program and Appeal Procedure (ROSB-002) establishes a civil penalty citation program for enforcing compliance with safety requirements for railroad carriers throughout California.

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