Skip to main content

Norfolk Southern submits comments responding to FRA request for information on automation

Response stresses inevitability of technology, safety benefits, and need for clear and flexible regulatory guidance

Norfolk, Va. - May 07, 2018

In response to the Federal Railroad Administration’s request for information on rail industry automation, Norfolk Southern today submitted comments outlining its views on this “important and imminent issue.” Norfolk Southern also submitted comments responding to a similar request for information by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

In an opening letter to FRA, Executive Vice President Law and Administration John Scheib observes that “the development of technology-assisted rail operations is moving rapidly,” and when it comes to industry automation, “the technology is already here or very close and is inevitable.” He further notes that “the application of many technologies for transportation operations is easier for rail than other modes.”

In attached comments, Norfolk Southern discusses a number of benefits that would flow from automation, including safety, efficiency, and environmental enhancements. Norfolk Southern emphasizes that “[t]echnology-assisted rail operations can help reduce human error” and minimize the number of people around equipment, both of which are “important to reduce accidents and injuries.”

While applauding FRA for initiating a discussion around railroad automation, Norfolk Southern underscores that the greatest obstacle to strategic deployment of technology-assisted rail operations is the lack of regulatory clarity, as well as current regulations that impede their implementation. Scheib notes, however, that the RFI is “a valuable first step” towards FRA “partner[ing] with railroads to pursue this important, safety-enhancing technology.”

Moving forward, Norfolk Southern urges FRA to “affirmatively signal its willingness to embrace and encourage automation in the rail industry … and begin reviewing and removing regulations that impede innovation in favor of a performance-based regulatory scheme.”

Norfolk Southern asks FRA to follow the lead of its Department of Transportation counterparts, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and provide clear and flexible guidance, enabling railroads to pursue new technologies and affirming that “automation is not a risk to be contained, but rather a safety and efficiency-enhancing standard to which the industry should aspire.”

About Norfolk Southern
Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC) is one of the nation’s premier transportation companies. Its Norfolk Southern Railway Company subsidiary operates approximately 19,500 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serves every major container port in the eastern United States, and provides efficient connections to other rail carriers. Norfolk Southern operates the most extensive intermodal network in the East and is a major transporter of coal, automotive, and industrial products.

Media Inquiries:

Susan Terpay, 757-823-5204 (

Investor Inquiries:

Clay Moore, 757-629-2861 (