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Rail Transportation Security Rule – 49 CFR 1580

Freight Rail

TSA’s Regulatory Authority

Under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) and delegated authority from the Secretary of Homeland Security, TSA has far-reaching responsibility and authority for “security in all modes of transportation . . . including security responsibilities . . . over modes of transportation that are exercised by the Department of Transportation.” TSA has broad regulatory authority to achieve ATSA’s objectives with respect to transportation security, and may issue, rescind, and revise such regulations as are necessary to carry out TSA functions. Accordingly, under this authority, TSA may assess a security risk for any mode of transportation, develop security measures for dealing with that risk, and enforce compliance with those measures.

  • Click here to read the Aviation and Transportation Security Act.

Security Action Items

On June 23, 2006, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Transportation issued a list of 24 Security Action Items (SAIs) for the rail transportation of Toxic Inhalation Hazard (TIH) materials. These voluntary measures, developed in collaboration with industry after field reviews and vulnerability analysis of railroad operations, addressed 3 critical areas: system security, access control and en route security. Three supplemental SAIs were added in November 2006, which specifically addressed the movement of TIH railcars through 46 High Threat Urban Areas (HTUAs).

TSA actively monitors the level of SAI implementation by railroads that transport TIH materials. Observations and surveys by TSA surface transportation security inspectors focus on seven specific SAIs, which were selected because of their direct impact on transportation security and their focus on practices and procedures applied in the field rather than at the corporate level. The inspectors also survey locations where rail cars containing TIH materials may be stopped to determine if the cars are being attended by railroad personnel. The length of time that these cars spend in HTUAs is recorded and this data is used in the calculation of a risk score. TSA measures the freight rail TIH risk in 46 High Threat Urban Areas.

  • Click here to read the original 24 Security Action Items.
  • Click here to read the three Supplemental Security Action Items.
  • Click here to read the guidance document issued for Voluntarily Conducted Background Checks.

Rail Transportation Security Rule – 49 CFR 1580

Photo of two yellow Union Pacific rail carsThe U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) regulations aimed at strengthening the security of the nation's freight and passenger rail systems and reducing the risk associated with the transportation of security-sensitive materials was published in the Federal Register on Nov. 26, 2008.

The rule granted TSA regulatory authority in the following key areas:

  • Secure Chain of Custody
    • Shippers must physically inspect security-sensitive rail cars prior to shipment.
    • Freight railroad carriers must establish positive and secure handoff procedures for security-sensitive materials shipments at points of origin, interchange and delivery in 46 high threat urban areas.
    • The chain of custody requirement applies to the bulk transportation of PIH materials, certain explosive materials, and certain high-level radioactive material shipments.
  • Communication
    • Freight and passenger railroad carriers, rail transit systems and certain rail hazardous materials facilities are required to designate a rail security coordinator (RSC).
    • The RSC serves as the liaison for intelligence information, security-related activities, and ongoing communications with TSA.
  • Reporting Security Concerns
    • Freight and passenger railroads are required to immediately report incidents, potential threats, and significant security concerns to TSA.
  • Location Tracking
    • Freight railroad carriers and certain rail hazardous materials shippers and receivers, at the request of TSA, must be able to report the location of individual security-sensitive materials cars within five minutes, and the locations of all cars containing security-sensitive materials within 30 minutes.
  • Inspection Authority
    • Codifies TSA’s authority to inspect freight and passenger railroad carriers, rail transit systems and certain facilities that ship or receive hazardous materials by rail.

Rail Security Rule Resources


Latest revision: 15 January 2014