Regulatory – ASLRRA files suit against New York state; FRA updates post-accident testing documents
Legislative – FRA report to Congress details status of grant programs
New Members – ASLRRA welcomes Tri-Logical Technologies
ASLRRA Annual Conference – Two featured speakers announced for conference general session, hotel rooms selling out
Out and About – ASLRRA staff travels to Arizona for NRC, stays in D.C. for TRB
Industry News – Various industry training courses scheduled through spring
Robert Grossman, Lowell “Jake” Jacobson and Rick Webb are this year’s Short Line Railroad Industry Hall of Fame honorees. ASLRRA will induct the 2024 Hall of Fame class at the Association’s Annual Conference and Exhibition, held March 24 to 26 in Kansas City, Missouri.
“The short line industry is one of the All-American success stories, built over more than 100 years by hard working visionaries. These men and women saw opportunity where others did not. The Short Line Industry Hall of Fame allows us an opportunity to recognize extraordinary achievement in the industry. This year’s inductees, Robert Grossman, Jake Jacobson and Rick Webb represent attributes that continue today as part of the short line ethos – advocacy, safety and service,” said ASLRRA President Chuck Baker.
Created in 2020, the Short Line Hall of Fame recognizes short line railroad visionaries who through their dedication, commitment and achievement best exemplify the qualities of innovation, entrepreneurialism, perseverance and service that have advanced the short line railroad industry.
Robert Grossman first made a name for himself in the railroad industry in 1971 as one of the founders of the short line holding company Emons Transportation Group (Emons). When Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (G&W) acquired Emons in 2002, Grossman joined G&W’s executive team, shifting his career toward a focus on representing railroad interests and helping railroads become their own advocates.Read more
Lowell “Jake” Jacobson was passionate about railroads, short lines and rail safety, and while he never set out to become a famous railroader, his unceasing dedication to the industry he loved made him a legend. In 1994 Railway Age magazine named Jacobson its Railroader of the Year, the first short line operator to be so honored. Jacobson earned the award in part for his tireless efforts to restore and rebuild parts of the railway damaged by catastrophic flooding. Five years later the magazine would dub Jacobson one of the Great Railroaders of the 20th Century.Read more
Rick Webb was working part time for Watco while going to college when Watco started in July of 1983. He began working full time at the company’s only operation in 1984. At that time, Watco consisted of a ten-person crew, using a single locomotive to serve its only customer, Boise Cascade, now Packaging Corporation of America. From that humble beginning Watco grew from one operation in 1983 to 190 locations operating in four countries today. For Webb, the main reason for Watco’s and his success is an unrelenting emphasis on building the best team to serve customers in the best manner possible.Read more
ASLRRA has joined with the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA) to file a lawsuit against New York State regarding its new waste by rail law. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, argues that the state’s law is preempted by federal law, namely the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act.
The waste by rail law requires putrescible waste transported by rail cars to be covered with sealing hard lids, while non-putrescible waste must be covered by hard tarping which cannot exceed the height of the rail container. At least two ASLRRA member railroads transport solid waste in New York and would be affected by this new law.
In their lawsuit the associations note that, aside from New York’s law being preempted by federal law, the new requirements would force railroads and shippers to use coverings that they do not currently use and that do not align with industry best practices. Moreover, requiring specific coverings only while operating in New York “is disruptive and burdensome for the interstate, interconnected operations of freight railroads, which regularly cross state borders.”
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued updated information regarding post-accident testing and training. Posted in the FRA’s eLibrary is information about post-accident training, post-accident testing guidance and definitions and a post-accident testing criteria flow chart.
The post-accident training is a presentation meant to help provide the required minimum training to supervisors responsible for regulated service employees. The presentation covers Part 219 Subpart C and discusses post-accident qualifying events, testing exceptions, toxicological testing and FRA Tox Boxes for specimen collection.
The testing guidance and definitions document includes qualifying criteria for different types of accidents and incidents; information about deciding who to test after an incident and when an employee must be recalled for testing; and other relevant definitions.
The testing flow chart, which is also included in the post-accident training presentation, provides a visual guide to help railroads determine whether an FRA post-accident test is required. There are two separate evaluations for accidents that take place at a highway-rail grade crossing and those that do not occur at crossings.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has modified the instructions for completing Form FRA F6180.54- Rail Equipment Accident/Incident Report. The changes allow for more data to be collected concerning train length and the number of crew members aboard the controlling locomotive when an accident occurs.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) Section 22421 requires this additional information, which will be collected from Dec. 5, 2023 through Dec. 31, 2026. Those completing the form will include train length and crew member information in Special Study Blocks 49a and 49b. All other instructions for completing Form FRA F6180.54 remain the same.
The Surface Transportation Board (STB) continues to seek nominations for representatives to fill vacancies on its newly established Passenger Rail Advisory Committee (PRAC). Included in the vacant positions are spots for one Class II or III freight railroad representative and one representative from a rail shipper, rail customer or rail shipper or customer advocacy organization.
Nominations for PRAC member candidates are due Feb. 5. The PRAC will have 18 voting members, including representatives from Amtrak, commuter rail operators, intercity passenger rail operators, Class I freight railroads, rail labor and more.
January’s edition of the Railroad Retirement Board’s (RRB) question and answer (Q&A) series focuses on reporting events and activities that could affect retirement annuity payments.
Included in the Q&A is a list of events and activities that can affect payment of annuities, such as entitlement to social security or certain other benefits, post-retirement work activity, change in marital status, death of an annuitant and more. The RRB goes on to explain how these events and activities can affect payments, focusing primarily on the impact of social security benefits and other benefits and post-retirement work activity and earnings.
The RRB points out that unreported events and activities could result in the annuitant having to repay any overpayment, potentially with interest and penalty fees. Also, annuitants who knowingly withhold information or make false statements to avoid annuity adjustments can be charged with crimes under federal law.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) submitted two reports to the House and Senate’s respective Appropriations Committees detailing the status of grant agreements and obligations from several FRA grant programs. The first report covers fiscal year (FY) 2017 through FY 2022, while the second covers FY 2017 through quarter one (Q1) and quarter two (Q2) of FY 2023.
Congress issued a Joint Explanatory Statement with the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022 requesting this grant information from the FRA. The agency notes that the report does not cover the FRA’s entire active grant portfolio.
The reports do detail information from eight different programs and program set-asides, such as the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program, CRISI congressionally directed funds, the Railroad Crossing Elimination (RCE) program and others. For each program the report includes dollar amounts allocated to unobligated projects, obligated projects and closed projects for a given fiscal year. According to the FRA an unobligated project is one that has been selected but has not signed a grant agreement with the agency; an obligated project is one that has completed all steps of the award process and is in either the administration or closeout stage; and a closed project has successfully completed the closeout process.
In a positive step toward finalizing appropriations bills for fiscal year 2024 and avoiding a government shutdown, congressional leaders have come to an agreement on overall spending levels for this fiscal year.
The agreement has bipartisan support, but it is only part of a longer process to pass spending bills before the current continuing resolution expires. Still, a topline agreement details the overall limits for defense and non-defense spending that are needed to allow appropriators to allocate funding for federal agencies.
Funding for transportation, housing and urban development, which includes the U.S. Department of Transportation, will lapse on Jan. 19. The second deadline for other agencies is Feb. 2.
Know a company that would benefit from joining and participating in ASLRRA? Please contact ASLRRA’s Senior Vice President of Membership and Business Development Kathy Keeney via email or on (202) 585-3439.
Tri-Logical Technologies Ltd., headquartered in Israel, has 15 years of specialized IoT experience in the railroad industry with a focus on remote condition monitoring, diagnostics and asset management serving railroads, fleet owners, and shippers. Its Control FREAK platform for locomotives allows real-time monitoring, diagnostics, and smart analytical reporting and its newly launched railcar telematics RailBlazer system converts each railcar into a digital asset, equipping users with instant insights into railcar location, condition, and health. International Business Development Director Tatiana Voloshin is our primary contact and can be reached on 972-52-8797588. Learn more about Tri-Logical by visiting them in the Green Zone at our Annual Conference & Exhibition in Booth #306.
Short line railroads can now train and assess employees on Railroad Workplace Safety (Part 214) using an online training program available through the Short Line Training Center’s Learning Management System (LMS). Built using the latest technology and incorporating interactive tools to engage learners, railroads may use the Part 214 program for both initial classroom training and refresher training for employees.
This critical program will familiarize workers with the requirements of 49 CFR Part 214, Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) railroad workplace safety standards, designed to prevent accidents and casualties to employees involved in certain railroad inspection, maintenance and construction activities. The course covers the following subparts of the regulation: general rules, bridge worker standards, roadway worker protection (RWP) and on-track roadway maintenance machines and hi-rail vehicles.
Learn more about industry training and resources available from the Short Line Training Center or contact ASLRRA Senior Vice President, Education and Business Services Sabrina Waiss for more information and pricing.
Spark TS is the exclusive Preferred Provider of drug and alcohol testing services in the ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program. Spark TS is passionate about helping railroads and contractors meet Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) drug and alcohol testing requirements, delivering key differentiators for drug and alcohol testing services including railroad industry-specific DAT expertise, online tools and key national partnerships.
The company’s expert team has built a program to offer drug and alcohol testing services and programs to help railroads and contractors find the most effective strategies to manage their company, Part 219, and other DOT-regulated programs. Spark’s drug and alcohol program services include clinic and mobile or onsite testing services, laboratory and medical review officer (MRO) services, electronic chain of custody forms and more.
The Association announced two featured speakers who will participate in the General Session at ASLRRA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition. CPKC President and CEO Keith Creel will share thoughts on the rail industry, as will Surface Transportation Board Member Patrick Fuchs.
During the General Session ASLRRA will also honor this year’s Short Line Railroad Industry Hall of Fame inductees as well as winners of ASLRRA’s annual awards. Nominations are due Feb. 9 for all the awards: the Veterans Engagement Award, Business Development Award, Environmental Award, Safety Person of the Year Award and Safety Professional of the Year Award. Follow each of the links to learn about the awards and access online nomination forms.
Click here to register for the conference, or here for information about conference hotel blocks. Rooms are still available at the Loews Kansas City hotel, but reservations are filling quickly and could sell out before the official cutoff date on March 8.
Please be careful to avoid hotel poachers when securing a room for the conference. Be sure to use the hotel phone number and link to hotel website on the ASLRRA Hotel Information website when making hotel reservations.
Danialle Lovik traveled to Scottsdale, Arizona last week to staff ASLRRA’s booth at the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Annual Conference. She made many connections with current and prospective Association members, helping build excitement for ASLRRA’s Annual Conference in March.
Sarah Yurasko (left) was also at the NRC conference in her role as president of the League of Railway Women (LRW). She presented the LRW’s Railway Woman of the Year award to Kari Gonzales, president and CEO of ASLRRA member MxV Rail. Kirk Bastyr of Progressive Railroading magazine, which cosponsors the award, joined Yurasko at the presentation.
Amy Krouse, Jo Strang and Crystal Gitchell attended the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. Each person is involved with different TRB committees; Strang is chair of the Rail Safety Committee, Krouse is secretary of the Freight Rail Transportation Committee and Gitchell serves on the State Rail Transportation Programs subcommittee. Together the three participated in discussions covering topics like rail safety, hazardous materials, state rail programs, workforce development and more. The Short Line Safety Institute’s Julia Leone was also at the TRB meeting to present research on developing leadership skills and strong safety cultures in the rail industry.
Chuck Baker is in Lombard, Illinois this week for the Midwest Association of Rail Shippers (MARS) Winter Meeting. Today he moderated a short line panel discussion featuring executives from ASLRRA member holding companies. (L to R) Genesee & Wyoming Inc.’s Mike Peters, R.J. Corman’s Justin Broyles and Gulf & Atlantic Railways’ Cassie Dull participated. Introducing the panelists was Peggy Emeis of Watco.
To date, nearly 5,000 people have accessed ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar Library to view one of the Association’s over 200 recorded webinars, all of which are available free to ASLRRA members. Individuals can search the library for webinars on a variety of rail industry topics, including the most popular recordings from 2023:
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.
The National Drug and Alcohol Screening Association (NDASA) will hold oral fluid testing regional training Jan. 30 in Arlington, Texas and Feb. 22 to 23 in Atlanta, Georgia. Follow each of the links below for more information and to register for the events.
The January training will include a presentation on the impact of oral fluid testing rules on the workplace, an update on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) clearinghouse and an oral fluid train-the-trainer course.
The February training will feature the same sessions as January with the addition of a roundtable conversation and question and answer segment with industry experts.
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Tennessee Transportation Assistance Program (TTAP) will hold its Railroad Track Inspection and Safety Standards course and its Railroad Bridge Inspection course this spring. Follow the respective links below for more information and registration details.
The track inspection course will take place March 4 to 8 at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga. The course discusses track defects and corrective actions, offers recommended methods for conducting inspections and gives an in-depth look at federal track safety standards.
Attendees of the track inspection course may be eligible for an ASLRRA scholarship to offset registration, travel and lodging costs. Learn more about ASLRRA’s scholarships here.
The bridge inspection course takes place May 20 to 24 in Knoxville, Tennessee, and will cover timber, steel and concrete bridges. Included in the discussion are common problems and failure modes, techniques and practices for inspection and routine maintenance requirements and how to perform common repairs.
ASLRRA member Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) will host the 29th Annual Railroad Liability Conference June 19 to 21 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The meeting will take place at the Chattanoogan Hotel and TVRM will host a dinner on its dinner train following the opening reception on June 19. More information, including hotel information and a link to the hotel room block, will be available in the coming weeks.
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.