Views & News - January 3, 2024

Views & News


Issue Highlights:

Regulatory – FRA announces 2024 random drug and alcohol testing rates

Legislative – Congress returns to D.C. to tackle appropriations bills

Announcements – Access disaster preparedness resources on ASLRRA’s website

ASLRRA Annual Conference – ASLRRA announces committee meeting schedule

Industry News – FRA to host free grade crossing safety workshop in New Jersey



The Numbers Tell a Story of a Strong 2023 for ASLRRA and Its Members

It’s a numbers game analyzing the impact of ASLRRA in 2023, and those numbers tell a compelling story of the Association’s work last year.

One notable number – 1,854 – tells how many people attended ASLRRA’s 2023 Annual Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans. This was second only to the number of participants at the convention celebrating the Association’s 100th anniversary.

Throughout 2023 ASLRRA shared all kinds of news with approximately 15,000 followers on its three social media profiles, with the Association’s posts reaching over 1 million people on LinkedIn, X and Facebook combined. The most popular posts were those that emphasized the unique nature of the short line industry and recognized hard-working railroaders.

ASLRRA welcomed 90 members in 2023, bringing the Association’s total membership to over 1,050 companies. Railroad members made their own mark in the last year, qualifying for a record number of ASLRRA’s Jake Safety Awards, 383, and Jake with Distinction Awards, 350.

Over a thousand people took advantage of ASLRRA’s year-round educational opportunities, with 900 joining a live webinar, 232 viewing a recording of the 18 webinars offered in 2023 and hundreds of others accessing the Association’s other webinar recordings available in the On-Demand Webinar Library. In addition, 666 people attended a regional meeting or training seminar, with attendance at ASLRRA’s seminars exceeding the predicted number by 61 percent. ASLRRA also awarded six scholarships in 2023, worth a total of $7,200, to help small-railroad employees attend important industry training events.

During the first-ever Short Line Railroad Advocacy Day, over 150 participants met with 176 congressional offices to talk about short lines and issues important to the industry. Also in the legislative space, ASLRRA’s government affairs team worked hard to bring attention to topics like the Short Line Railroad Relief Act, which now has 23 bipartisan co-sponsors and is supported by a group of 15 organizations representing rail, shippers, labor and government officials.

Short lines last year also received a record amount of funding through the fiscal year 2022 (FY22) Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program – $720 million. This funding will go to support 13 projects improving grade crossing safety, 14 projects for upgraded track, 20 projects to fix bridges and six projects to upgrade or replace 24 high-polluting locomotives with more eco-friendly ones. Again ASLRRA’s government affairs team has been actively engaged in conveying the importance of CRISI grants to lawmakers, with their efforts playing a role in encouraging Congress to appropriate $2.4 billion to the next round of CRISI funding.

In all, the numbers tell of an Association that is robust and engaged, working on multiple fronts to support its members. From communicating the short line story to offering engaging educational opportunities in person and online, from organizing meetings for members to attending meetings with government officials on Capitol Hill, ASLRRA had a fantastic 2023 and is striving to make 2024 another year for the record books.

Anyone can join the Association in this effort by engaging in a variety of ways. Attend the 2024 Annual Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. Mark your calendar for the return of Railroad Day on Capitol Hill. Sign up for a webinar. Donate to the Short Line Education Fund. Encourage your elected officials to support short lines. Participate in a regional meeting or training seminar. Take advantage of safety and compliance resources and the Member Discount Program. Support ASLRRA supplier members. Join and engage in ASLRRA’s committees. And, simplest of all, like and follow ASLRRA on social media and give the Association’s posts a thumbs up when they appear in your feed.


Save the Date Railroad Day 2024



FRA Makes No Change to Random Drug and Alcohol Testing Rates in 2024

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has announced drug and alcohol minimum random testing rates for 2024. These rates apply to covered service, maintenance-of-way (MOW), and mechanical employees.

Rates for all three groups of employees will remain the same for calendar year 2024. The FRA notes that these are minimum testing rates and railroads and railroad contractors can conduct random testing at higher rates.

  • Covered service employees – Drug testing rate is 25 percent, alcohol testing rate is 10 percent
  • MOW employees – Drug testing rate is 25 percent, alcohol testing rate is 10 percent
  • Mechanical employees – Drug testing rate is 50 percent, alcohol testing rate is 25 percent.

The FRA determines testing rates based on the last two complete calendar years of railroad industry drug and alcohol program data. Because mechanical employees only became eligible for testing in 2022, there was not enough data to adjust the testing rates in 2024, thus the testing rates will remain the same for this class of employees in 2024.


FRA and Other U.S. DOT Administrations Announce 2024 Civil Penalty Adjustments

The U.S. Department of Transportation and several of its operating administrations, including the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) have published a final rule detailing adjustments to civil penalty amounts in 2024.

The FRA included adjustments to six penalties, three related to rail safety, one related to hazardous materials training violations and two related to hazardous materials violations. PHMSA’s updates include three hazardous materials violations and four for pipeline safety violations.

Adjustments are made based on the consumer price index, and the rule was effective Dec. 28. Other offices announcing adjustments were the Office of the Secretary, Federal Aviation Administration, Maritime Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.


ASLRRA Disaster Preparedness Resources



Lawmakers Return to Capitol Hill Needing to Pass Spending Bills

With both the House and Senate back in session next week, the focus will be on passing appropriations bills before their respective deadlines, as established by the second continuing resolution signed by President Biden on Nov. 16.

The bill for transportation, housing and urban development (THUD), which covers funding for the Department of Transportation, Surface Transportation Board and other agencies, is included in the first funding deadline set for Jan. 19. Also due by Jan. 19 are bills for agriculture, energy and water and military construction and veterans affairs. The second deadline is Feb. 2 for bills covering homeland security, health and human services, defense and more.

While the appropriations process plays out, ASLRRA’s government affairs team is developing its advocacy game plan for 2024. High on the list is organizing this year’s Railroad Day on Capitol Hill, which takes place on May 8 and will feature a return of Class I railroad participation. The CRISI grant notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) is also expected to be released soon, and ASLRRA hopes to help its members capitalize on the over $2 billion to be available for infrastructure projects.

Other advocacy efforts will continue, with attention paid to truck length and weight issues, pending railroad safety legislation, various regulatory efforts and other pressing matters.



ASLRRA’s Disaster Resources Help Members Before and After Emergencies Occur

With winter underway, ASLRRA reminds its members that preparation goes far in helping a railroad recover from natural disasters and other emergencies. ASLRRA has assembled essential templates and checklists to assist members in developing response plans that can be put in place and used as training tools before disaster strikes, as well as emergency response tools and resources to aid in the recovery process in the aftermath of a catastrophic event.

Available resources on the Association’s Disaster Preparedness page include disaster planning, hazmat response and instructions on accessing an emergency docket, in addition to links to other government websites. ASLRRA members may download materials directly from the website. Find the Disaster Preparedness page under the Safety & Compliance tab.

ASLRRA also has a robust selection of recorded webinars available for members in the On-Demand Resource Library that may be used to prepare and train for emergency situations.  Topics range from Crisis Communications and Media Training to Hazardous Materials Incident Reporting and Emergency Notifications Section Review.


Members Can Protect Their Employees With PPE from Preferred Provider Würth

Würth is ASLRRA’s Preferred Provider of personal protective equipment (PPE) and related services and their customer-first approach to service and support has a long history. Since opening their doors, Würth has helped thousands of companies protect their employees and work with optimum efficiency for maximum output. Their team of railroad specialists currently supports nearly 200 short line railroads, rail industry contractors and Class I railroad companies.

ASLRRA members can depend on Würth for quality safety and industrial products and exceptional customer service, plus discounted pricing on a huge assortment of products and equipment needed to implement an effective and efficient safety program. Offerings include foot and leg protection, signs, ergonomic products, hearing and eye protection, clothing protection, lighting and electrical products, storage containment and environmental spill cleanup, traffic control and much more.

Visit the Association’s Member Discount Program page to view Würth’s complete product offering and suite of services and start saving today.


ASLRRA Industry Awards Nominations Ad


ASLRRA Annual Conference

Schedule Finalized for In-Person Committee Meetings

Twelve of ASLRRA’s standing committees will hold in-person meetings at the 2024 Annual Conference and Exhibition, all of which will take place on Sunday, March 24, the conference’s first day.

Meeting times are as follows:

  • 9:30 to 11:30 am – Engineering Committee and Environmental Committee                                          
  • 11:30 am to 12:30 pm – Supplier Committee                                                      
  • 12:30 to 2:30 pm – Mechanical Committee, Small Railroad Committee and General Counsel Committee 
  • 1:00 to 2:00 pm – Insurance Committee               
  • 3:00 to 5:00 pm – Safety and Training Committee, Technology Committee, Legislative Policy Committee, Human Resources Committee and Young Professionals Committee

Most committee meetings are open to all ASLRRA members. Registered conference attendees can observe these meetings and learn more about the Association and its work in targeted sectors.


ASLRRA Awards Recognize Achievements in Multiple Categories – Nominations Are Due Next Month

Nominations are due Feb. 9 for all of ASLRRA’s annual awards, recognizing achievements at the individual and organization level.

ASLRRA is welcoming nominations for the Veterans Engagement Award,  Business Development Award, Environmental Award and Safety Person of the Year and Safety Professional of the Year awards.

Follow each of the links to learn about the awards and access online nomination forms. Nomination forms for all awards are due Feb. 9. Award Winners will be recognized during the general session at ASLRRA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition taking place March 24 to 26 in Kansas City, Missouri. Click here to register for the event.

Conference Hotel Room Blocks are Filling Up, Book Lodging Soon

There are only two remaining Kansas City hotels where ASLRRA has a room block, the Loews Kansas City and Hilton President Kansas City. Every hotel is either connected to or a short walk from the convention center.

Please be careful to avoid hotel poachers when securing a room for the conference. Be sure to use the hotel phone numbers and links to hotel websites on the ASLRRA Hotel Information website when making hotel reservations.


ASLRRA 2024 Conference

Register Now Agenda Book Your Room



On-Demand Webinars

Recorded Webinars Help Railroads Communicate in a Crisis

ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar Library includes a Communications category with recordings that cover topics such as crisis communications and social media use. Find webinars presented by subject-matter experts, including:

  • Crisis Communications Fundamentals for Railroaders
  • Not in my Backyard: Responding/Reacting to NIMBYism in the Community
  • Using Social Media as a Business Development Tool

Visit ASLRRA’s webinar homepage to view these on-demand offerings and many more in the Association’s webinar library.


Click here to learn more about our education offerings.




Industry News and Events

Jan. 30 to Feb. 1: FRA to Host Grade Crossing Safety Workshop at Rutgers University

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is hosting a free FRA Grade Crossing Safety and Railroad Trespass Prevention Workshop at the end of January in Piscataway, New Jersey on the campus of Rutgers University.

The goal of the workshop is to bring together federal, state and local government officials; rail, transit and law enforcement representatives; members of the public and other stakeholders to discuss a variety of topics related to grade crossing safety. These topics include technology to mitigate, reduce and eliminate incidents at grade crossings; best practices for reducing incidents; ways to raise awareness of crossing and trespasser incidents and more.

This workshop is one of several the FRA is planning to hold across the U.S. Another is being scheduled for spring 2024 in Oakland, California. Use the link above to learn more about the event, view an agenda and register.


Former Association Board Member Barbara O’Neill Retires

ASLRRA extends best wishes and thanks to Barbara O’Neill, vice president of sales and marketing at ASLRRA member Richmond Pacific Railroad and Levin Richmond Terminal, who recently retired.

O’Neill worked at Richmond Pacific and Levin Richmond Terminal for 18 years, where she was responsible for the market development, commercial agreements, planning, forecasting, customer service and the commercial interface with BNSF and UP railroads. In her role she built strong relationships with railroad and terminal customers, rail industry colleagues and local officials.

O’Neill was also active on ASLRRA’s board as part of the Pacific Region group. She also was a member and served as secretary of the small railroad committee and was part of the 2014 ASLRRA convention planning committee. ASLRRA is grateful to O’Neill for her years of dedication and service to the Association.

In addition to her work with ASLRRA, O’Neill is a board member and secretary of the California Short Line Railroad Association and is a member on the board of the West Contra Costa County Council of Industries. She has also served on the Union Pacific Short Line Advisory Board and the BNSF Short Line Caucus

Prior to joining Richmond Pacific and Levin Richmond Terminal, O’Neill worked for the Port of Oakland and held various positions at the Southern Pacific Railroad, the Union Pacific Railroad and the CSXT.


Nominations Being Accepted for Multiple Railway Age Awards

Nominations are due soon for Railway Age magazine’s Fast Trackers 25 Under 40 awards and its Short Line of the Year and Regional Railroad of the Year competition.

The deadline for Fast Trackers award nominations is Jan. 8. Nominees must be under 40 as of Jan. 1, 2024. Winners are chosen for the impact they have had on their field or in their company, and each will be featured in a future issue of Railway Age.

The deadline for Short Line and Regional Railroad of the Year entries is Feb. 6. Awards are given to the Class II and III railroads that best demonstrate outstanding achievement in one or more areas including innovation in operations or maintenance, customer service, community relations and more. Find the nomination form here. Winners of the awards will be recognized at ASLRRA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition in Kansas City, Missouri. They will also be featured in articles in the magazine’s March 2024 issue.


Click here for a calendar of industry events.

Views & News is published by American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.
Please contact Amy Krouse, editor, with questions or comments.