Representing the Short Line Industry - Telling Our Story

Experts from ASLRRA’s staff represent the short line industry, and particularly our members, testifying before a variety of Congressional and Regulatory bodies.  We are engaged in topics such as rail technology trends, economic impact of rail, increases in truck size and weight, regulations and compliance issues, customer service, interchange challenges, safety and tax policies such as the short line tax credit. Below you will find recent written testimonies given by ASLRRA on behalf of our members.

ASLRRA Files Comments: FRA's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

WASHINGTON, November 30, 2022 – The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, on behalf of itself and its member railroads, and the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association, on behalf of itself and its contractor members, submit comments in response to the Federal Railroad Administration’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amend its regulation on Training, Qualification, and Oversight for Safety-Related Railroad Employees to codify agency guidance and clarify existing requirements.

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ASLRRA and NRC File Comments in Railroad Risk Program NPRM Urging Redefinition of Directly Affected Employees

WASHINGTON, November 7, 2022 – ASLRRA and NRC jointly filed comments urging the Federal Railroad Administration to use the longstanding and well-defined precedent set by the Railroad Retirement Board (“RRB”) to include only contractors performing the role of conductors, locomotive engineers, and dispatchers as ‘directly affected employees.’  Moreover, the parties noted the reference to a “significant portion of a railroad’s operations,” does not provide the regulatory certainty small businesses need to aid their compliance with regulatory obligations.

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ASLRRA Files Comments: CARB Proposed In-Use Locomotive Regulation

WASHINGTON, November 7, 2022 – In comments in response to the California Air Resource Board (CARB)’s Proposed In-Use Locomotive Regulation, ASLRRA advocated that CARB should withdraw the rule or exclude short line railroads.  The proposed rule is exempted by federal law and the proposed requirements threaten the economic viability of short line railroads in the state.

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ASLRRA Provides Comments on EPA's NPRM Regarding Accidental Release Prevention Requirements

WASHINGTON, October 31, 2022 – ASLRRA joined 17 other entities in encouraging the EPA to suspend the rulemaking process to allow OSHA’s review of the PSM standard to advance ahead of any major revisions to the RMP. In addition, the comments outline seven areas of concern for the Agency to consider.

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ASLRRA Weighs in on Build America, Buy America Act

WASHINGTON, August 12, 2022 – ASLRRA provided comments in response to the Department of Transportation’s request for information regarding “Construction Materials Used in Federal Financial Assistance Projects for Transportation Infrastructure in the United States under the Build America, Buy America Act.” ASLRRA expressed support for many of the instructions outlined, and encouraged the DOT to work closely with the Small Business Administration to consider exceptions. Further, ASLRRA provided seven examples of areas, common to rail operations, that should be considered for waivers, urging that waivers be judiciously granted, including general applicability waivers where appropriate, to railroads relying on federal funding for purchasing under programs such as CRISI.

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ASLRRA Provides Written Testimony for U.S. House T & I Hearing – Examining Rail Safety

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2022 - ASLRRA submitted comments for the record outlining the many ways that ASLRRA supports its members in enhancing safety practices and advocates for the industry on Capitol Hill and with regulating bodies to advance safety rules and regulations with known safety benefits and to foster – not hinder – technology and operational practices that improve rail safety.

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ASLRRA Responds to Washington State Crew Size Rulemaking

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2022 - ASLRRA provided a written response to the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission's rulemaking seeking to implement House Bill 1841, "Minimum Crew Size on Certain Trains," urging the Commission to withdraw its rulemaking.  ASLRRA stated that the rulemaking is preempted by the ICC Termination Act of 1995, and detailed additional concerns with the rulemaking for short line railroads. ASLRRA member Genesee & Wyoming also submitted comments on behalf of its three short line railroads in the state.

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ASLRRA Provides Response to Questions Posed by STB During EP 711 Hearing March 15 and 16

WASHINGTON, April, 2022 - ASLRRA filed supplemental comments with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to address a line of questioning brought up by STB Chair Martin Oberman and board member Patrick Fuchs during a hearing discussing the STB’s proposed reciprocal switching rule. Oberman and Fuchs asked what percentage of freight rail industry traffic would be excluded from the proposed reciprocal switching rule if, as ASLRRA prefers, short lines continue to be exempt from the switching regulation. ASLRRA estimates about 10 percent of traffic volume would not be subject to a reciprocal switching mandate if short line traffic were excluded from the rule, which means excluding small railroads from reciprocal switching rules would affect only a small percentage of total railroad freight traffic. The Association’s STB Working Group will continue to monitor this potential rule and advocate firmly for short line interests in this matter.

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ASLRRA Joins AAR in Opposing EPA's Proposed Denial of Use of Railroad Crossties as a Source of Fuel

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2022 - On January 28, 2022, EPA published a notification of tentative response to the December 7, 2018 petition for rulemaking from ASLRRA, AAR, the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA), the Treated Wood Council (TWC), and the American Wood Council (AWC). The petition requested the following amendments to the non-hazardous secondary material (NHSM) regulations: (1) Change from mandatory to ‘‘should consider’’ the legitimacy criterion for comparison of contaminants in the NHSM to the traditional fuel the unit is designed to burn found at 40 CFR 241.3(d)(1)(iii); (2) remove associated designed to burn and other limitations for creosote-treated railroad ties found at 40 CFR 241.4(a)(7)–(a)(10); and (3) revise the definition of paper recycling residuals (PRR) that can be burned as non-waste found at 40 CFR 241.2 to remove the limit on non-fiber materials. The Associations oppose EPA’s Proposed Denial and ask EPA to reconsider its flawed decision. Read Attachment A and Attachment B.

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ASLRRA Comments Reflected in Final FRA Workplace Safety Rule

WASHINGTON – March 17, 2022 – The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) revised its regulations governing railroad workplace safety to allow for the use of alternative cybersecurity standards for electronic display systems used to view track authority information for roadway worker safety, and to exempt certain remotely operated roadway maintenance machines from existing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) requirements for enclosed cabs. ASLRRA submitted comments on February 9, 2021, with AAR, supporting the proposed changes. This final rule codified a longstanding waiver that had been granted to ASLRRA associate member, Harsco Track Technologies, for a roadway maintenance machine (RMM) designed to function without a dedicated operator located on the machine. Railroads have safely operated equipment subject to this waiver since 2008.

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ASLRRA Submits Comments and Testimony to STB for EP 711 Hearing March 15 and 16

WASHINGTON, March 15 and 16 - ASLRRA submitted comments and written testimony to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) for a hearing concerning Docket No. EP 711 (Sub-No. 1), which is a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on reciprocal switching first introduced in 2016. Baker testified at the meeting on behalf of short line railroads. He was joined by David Clarke, retired director of the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and Doc Claussen, chairman of ASLRRA's Board of Directors and vice president of ASLRRA member Gulf and Ohio Railways. The speakers will express opposition to the proposed reciprocal switching rules, arguing that such regulations stand to make freight railroading less efficient, complicate routing and decrease rail network infrastructure investments. If the Board does create such a rule, the rule should fully exclude all traffic served by short lines. Baker provided an overview of the short line position, Clarke discussed the unique economics of short lines and explain to the board how mandated reciprocal switching would adversely affect small railroads, while Claussen added a first-hand account of the how short lines go above and beyond to achieve success for customers and thus a forced switching rule is not needed.

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ASLRRA Provides Response to FRA's Request for Information on Corridor Identification and Development Program

WASHINGTON – March 8. ASLRRA submitted comments in response to the Federal Railroad Administration’s Request for Information (RFI) regarding the Corridor Identification and Development Program.

The program “creates a new framework to facilitate the development of new, enhanced, and restored intercity passenger rail corridors throughout the country.” In its comments, ASLRRA emphasizes that some of the Association’s short line members successfully host passenger rail service now, while others would welcome collaborative conversations about hosting new or expanded passenger services.

ASLRRA cautions, however, that any new proposals should address potential impacts, and the Association suggests certain principles be followed to best evaluate potential new or expanded passenger rail operations on host short line railroads. The principles focus on safety, access and capacity, full compensation and risk mitigation and a customized approach.

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Association Letter Suggests Changes to NEPA to Address Supply Chain Concerns

WASHINGTON, March 7 - ASLRRA sent a letter this week to several federal agency leaders with suggestions for minor changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) implementing regulations at 23 CFR Part 771. In January, several short line industry officials and ASLRRA staff participated in a virtual roundtable with Federal Railroad Administrator Amit Bose, Surface Transportation Board Chairman Martin Oberman, and Ports Envoy John Porcari and their respective staffs. During that call, several ideas for addressing supply chain congestion were raised and discussed. After the call, the Federal Railroad Administration welcomed subsequent ideas and feedback, which prompted ASLRRA’s recent letter. The Association believes the changes presented in the letter could help expedite FRA-funded projects that impact supply chain congestion.

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ASLRRA's Comments Address Questions in DOT Request for Information

WASHINGTON, March 4 - ASLRRA submitted comments responding to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Request for Information (RFI) concerning the department’s ongoing research plan. The Association addressed three questions in the RFI. ASLRRA urged Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to pursue the Transportation Research Board’s truck size and weight research plan, which contains 27 projects to determine the various impacts of raising the status quo weight and lengths of commercial trucks. ASLRRA also urged research on rail geographic information system (GIS) data, suggested further DOT and Department of Energy (DOE) collaboration on locomotive emission reduction, and commended FRA’s efforts on the Broad Agency Announcement research funding program. ASLRRA has applied for a research grant through this program and hopes to be funded soon.

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ASLRRA Files Comments in Response to the Surface Transportation Board Request Regarding First-mile/last-mile Service

WASHINGTON, February 17, 2022 - ASLRRA filed a response to shippers and shipper groups comments to the STB's September 2, 2021 invitation to respond to EP 767, regarding first-mile/last-mile ("FMLM") service. ASLRRA collected information on how some short line railroads capture service data and are responsive to customer concerns. We found that there is no single metric or set of metrics or data reporting process that would make sense for the STB to mandate of 600 different small business short lines. Overall, short lines are very responsive to their customers and quickly address any identified service issues, particularly in the provision of FMLM services.

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Baker Testifies in STB Hearing on Amtrak Plan for Gulf Coast Service On Feb. 15

WASHINGTON, February 15 - ASLRRA President Chuck Baker testified at a virtual Surface Transportation Board (STB) hearing regarding an application by Amtrak to be allowed to operate passenger trains on CSX and Norfolk Southern lines between New Orleans, Louisiana and Mobile, Alabama. In his testimony, Baker offered support for new passenger operations, and offered some strategies to ensure each new opportunity is individually reviewed, rather than having a one-size-fits-all process. He also discussed ways potential impacts to the national freight rail system could be thoroughly explored and addressed before allowing new or expanded passenger services. Such impacts would include infrastructure investments that might be needed to comply with regulations, and to mitigate potential harm to the overall fluidity of the line and service to current freight rail customers. Watch Baker’s testimony on YouTube here.

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ASLRRA Joins AAR and APTA in Response to OSHA's ANPRM Addressing Heat-Related Injuries and Illnesses

WASHINGTON, January 26, 2022 - ASLRRA joined AAR and APTA responding to OSHA's Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking addressing heat-related injuries and illnesses. The parties noted that Federal Railroad Administration has long collected and evaluated heat-related injury/illness data and effectively addresses the concerns raised in the ANPRM. Pursuant to longstanding jurisdictional precedents governing the federal safety regulation of railroad operations, OSHA should exclude railroads from this proceeding and instead permit FRA to continue to regulate temperature- and weather- related safety considerations unique to railroad operations and occupations. See, e.g., 1978 FRA & OSHA Policy Statement, 43 Fed. Reg. 10,583 (Mar. 14, 1978).

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