WASHINGTON – Ronald L. Batory officially became the 14th United States Federal Railroad Administrator on February 28, 2018. In the presence of his family, and numerous colleagues he has known throughout his 47-year career as a railroader, Batory was sworn in by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
In remarks following his swearing in, Batory described his career as “my living dream.”
“Rail safety is first and foremost,” he said. “Its practice is non-compromising and non-negotiable. Safety is embedded into our lives. It is the keystone of the railroad industry. Railroading is not unsafe, as you know, yet you can never assume. One mistake can be your last. Reducing and eliminating risk is paramount toward enhancing safety.”
Batory referred to a new public awareness safety campaign launched by the FRA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Safety reaches beyond railroad rights-of-way. Increasing public awareness is necessary, so people will make better decisions around crossings and tracks,” he said. “Throughout my tenure, increasing public awareness on rail safety will be a consistent priority of mine—not unlike that of my career in the private sector.”
Batory went on to talk about how “safety and creative innovation” can be coupled by “transformative technologies” such as the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. “Economic growth can be propelled by fact-based, data-driven analysis and decision-making,” he said. “Without facts, it’s just another opinion.”
“Imagine safety instilled in a culture of zero tolerance, combined with the use of developing technology,” Batory said. “This combination of culture and applied sciences can be the key ingredient toward developing safe, smart, sustainable infrastructure. How much one builds or spends on infrastructure is not nearly as important as to how wisely we exercise those actions.”
“I’ve always sought constructive change,” Batory concluded. “You cannot fear failure. If you do, it becomes a lock on a door that keeps you from entering the unknown side of creative innovation.”
“Ron Batory brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Federal Railroad Administration during a critical time for rail and passenger safety,” said Secretary Chao.“His [decades-long] career in the operation and maintenance of railroads will be of great value in helping to implement new safety technology and improve compliance with safety alerts.”
As Administrator, Batory is responsible for managing the agency’s regulatory oversight of more than 800 railroads, including enforcement of safety laws and regulations. “He will provide leadership and direction for FRA-administered financial assistance programs and national freight and passenger rail policy, as well as research and development activities that support improved railroad safety, efficiency and reliability,” FRA said.
After earning his Bachelor of Arts degree from Adrian College in Michigan, Ron Batory began his railroad career in 1971 working for the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railroad. He received a Master of Arts degree from Eastern Michigan University in 1975, and then served in positions of progressively greater responsibility with the Grand Trunk Western Railroad, the Chicago, Missouri & Western Railway, and Southern Pacific Transportation Company. In 1994, Batory became President of The Belt Railway Company of Chicago, the largest intermediate switching terminal in the U.S. In 1998, he was recruited by CSX and Norfolk Southern to manage the partitioning of Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) as part of a merger approved by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board. He was President and Chief Operating Officer of Conrail Shared Assets from 2004 until his retirement in April 2017.
Batory’s assuming the role of the nation’s chief railroad safety officer occurred about eight months after he was nominated. He was confirmed on Feb. 13, after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) finally removed a hold on a Batory confirmation vote—a hold put in place this past summer in an attempt to force the Department of Transportation to release federal funds for Amtrak’s Gateway rail tunnel project under the Hudson River.