Views & News - January 11, 2023

Views & News


ASLRRA Introduces New Environmental Award, Nomination Period for All Annual Awards Opens

Rail is a highly efficient, environmentally friendly way to move freight over land, emitting only 0.05 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton-mile of freight compared to 0.4 pounds for trucks. Such impressive statistics are a reflection of the significant effort railroads put into implementing eco-conscious practices across all areas of operation.

Investing in and implementing environmentally friendly operations is not always the simplest or cheapest option, yet ASLRRA’s members make these choices because they are critical to a sustainable transportation system.

In recognition of the increasing focus on this effort, the Association introduces its new Environmental Award, which will recognize an ASLRRA-member railroad that has enacted innovative and successful environmental initiatives in the small railroad industry. The award was developed by ASLRRA’s Environmental Committee.

ASLRRA-member railroads can submit nominations describing programs or initiatives undertaken to reduce the company’s environmental impact or contribute to meeting sustainability goals. Such initiatives can include a sustainability plan or report, innovative emissions or environmental impact reduction efforts, and participation in programs like the Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Program and more.

The Association will recognize the inaugural Environmental Award winner at this year’s ASLRRA Annual Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans. Follow this link to read the award criteria or click here to submit a nomination form. Nominations are due March 3.

Business Development Awards, Safety Awards and the Veterans Engagement Award

ASLRRA is also accepting nominations for all annual awards. Nominations are due March 3 and winners will be recognized at the Association’s conference in April. Follow each link to find award descriptions, criteria and nomination forms.

The Business Development Awards recognize railroad members whose innovative ideas to build business and promote economic development have been a success. Former winners have been recognized for developing a state-of-the-art transload facility to attract and serve new customers; pursuing opportunities to shift truck shipments to rail; and demonstrating excellent customer service to significantly grow carloads.

The Safety Awards include Safety Person of the Year and Safety Professional of the Year. The Safety Person of the Year recognizes a non-management employee who demonstrates exceptional commitment to promoting safe practices in his or her company, while the Safety Professional of the Year goes to a railroad management employee who is responsible for safety programs, training and general company-wide management of safe practices.

The Veterans Engagement Award honors an ASLRRA member demonstrating policies and practices that support veterans and active-duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces. This includes specific recruitment, hiring and retention efforts as well as recognition of military-affiliated employees and fundraising efforts for military and veterans organizations.


Save the Date: In-Person Railroad Day on Capitol Hill to Take Place May 17

Railroad Day on Capitol Hill will once again be in person in 2023 after two years of virtual meetings with congressional offices. On May 17 railroad industry professionals and stakeholders from across the country will gather in Washington, D.C. to meet with lawmakers and raise awareness of the importance of freight rail to the national economy.

ASLRRA and its industry partners will come together to discuss rail industry priorities with House and Senate leaders and congressional representatives. Class I, II, and III railroad personnel, shippers, labor rail representatives, state and local government representatives and members from the supplier community with an interest in furthering the policy priorities of the railroad industry are all invited to attend meetings.

Bookmark ASLRRA’s Railroad Day webpage to keep abreast of the latest event information.

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FRA Safety Advisory Addresses Unintended Brake Release of Automatic Air Brakes

In a safety advisory, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) focuses on a June 2022 incident when a train crew experienced an unintended brake release of a train’s automatic air brakes when stopped at a signal.

The incident occurred during a heavy thunderstorm, when a 9,204-foot, 7,392-ton intermodal train stopped on a downhill grade with the air brakes set at roughly 12 pounds and the locomotive consist’s independent brakes fully set. After being stopped for about three hours the train started to roll forward. The crew was able to stop the train by applying full-service airbrakes and full dynamic braking as well as operating the emergency brake valve.

An FRA investigation showed that the likely cause was bleeding of air pressure after three hours, which led to localized brake releases. Potentially contributing to the event were the downhill grade, wet rail and train’s tonnage.

The FRA makes four recommendations in its advisory, including a statement that train crews should not expect service rate or emergency brake application to indefinitely maintain application of a train’s air brakes.


FRA Provides Guidance on Submitting Requests for Waivers and Other Approvals

Guidance from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) discusses existing requirements and best practices for submitting requests for waivers, blocked signal applications and other approval requests to the agency.

The document, which replaces the previous guidance issued in 2012, makes several changes. One particular difference is a recommendation from the FRA that petitioners take steps to identify the impact of their petition on other stakeholders prior to submitting the petition to the FRA, and provides an example request.

ASLRRA’s Senior Consultant Mike Ogborn points out that this is a significant change for railroads, adding an extra step for petitioners that could disrupt the petitioner’s request.


EPA Issues Guidance for Identifying, Addressing Environmental Justice Concerns in Air Permitting

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Air and Radiation has issued guidance for consideration of environmental justice in Clean Air Act permitting decisions.

According to a statement from the EPA, the principles are meant to “provide an interim operating framework for identifying, analyzing, and addressing environmental justice concerns in air permitting” while the agency explores other ways to advance environmental justice and equity.

The eight principles presented in the memo promote use of best practices developed by the EPA and its co-regulatory partners and are intended for use by the EPA’s regional offices in federal air permitting decisions. ASLRRA members that transload, particularly commodities like butane and propane, will likely be interested in this memo.


STB Final Rule Establishes Rate Review Procedure

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) has issued a final rule and termination of proceeding concerning rate review procedures. The rule establishes a new procedure for challenging the reasonableness of railroad rates in smaller cases and is effective March 6.

According to the STB, the new procedure allows the board to decide a case by selecting the final offer of the complainant or the defendant subject to an expedited procedural schedule that adheres to firm deadlines. ASLRRA has been monitoring this issue but did not submit comments concerning it.


NTSB Closes Safety Recommendation Issued to ASLRRA

The NTSB issued Safety Recommendation R-22-10 to ASLRRA asking the Association to inform its members of the circumstances of a CSX train derailment with hazardous materials that took place in 2020 in Kentucky and urge awareness of dynamic weather alerts that could be used to help prevent weather-related derailments. ASLRRA published the information in the Nov. 2, 2022 issue of Views and News and the NTSB has subsequently classified the recommendation as “Closed—Acceptable Action.”


Congress Solidifies Committee Leadership

With the election of Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as the new Speaker of the House, Republicans have settled into the task of choosing new House committee leaders.

Representative Sam Graves (R-Mo.) will be chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Representative Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) the ranking member. Representative Jason Smith (R-Mo.) will chair the Ways and Means Committee, and Representative Richard Neal (D-Mass.) will be ranking member. Leading the Agriculture Committee is Representative Glenn Thompson (R-Penn.) with Representative David Scott (D-Ga.) the ranking member. Representative Kay Granger (R-Tex.) was named Appropriations Committee chair, with Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) the ranking member.

In the Senate, Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) will chair the Appropriations Committee and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine.) is expected to be named ranking member. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) will chair the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee while Ted Cruz (R-Texas) will be ranking member.

Chairs of relevant subcommittees in both the Senate and House are still being determined.

ASLRRA’s government team will soon begin outreach to freshman members of Congress to introduce them to the short line freight rail industry. Other efforts in the legislative arena, including organization of an in-person Railroad Day on Capitol Hill, can begin in more earnest now that some of the dust has settled following the start of the 118th Congress.


National Blueprint Describes Ways to Achieve Transportation Decarbonization by 2050

A new document produced by four federal agencies, “The U.S. National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization,” outlines strategies to bring transportation-sector emissions down to net-zero by 2050.

The blueprint proposes a timeline for action and describes its “whole-of-government approach” to reach decarbonization goals. It also makes specific suggestions for various transportation modes, including rail.

The rail section on pages 66 to 68 discusses both freight and passenger rail, noting in part that rail demonstrates “significantly higher efficiency than freight trucking.” Still, there are opportunities for improvement and the blueprint identifies three priority actions: infrastructure investments, multi-stakeholder collaborations and research and innovation.

MDP Spark TS

Annual Conference

Business by Day, Celebration at Night Double the Reasons to Attend ASLRRA’s Conference

ASLRRA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition features two full days of engaging educational content with over 40 hours of breakout sessions led by more than 100 subject-matter experts. The Association is also reviving its closing party on the last day of the conference, giving participants another reason to stay in New Orleans through April 4.

Register today for the April 2-4 conference and don’t forget to also sign up for the golf tournament or a Port of New Orleans tour. The boat tours are full, but is possible to join the waitlist. Space is still available in both bus tours.

Rooms in ASLRRA’s room blocks are selling out quickly. Early bird room rates at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside and the Sheraton New Orleans end on March 7, if rooms are not sold out before then.

Note: Those staying through April 5 should book at the Sheraton, as rooms have sold out for the evening of April 4 at the Hilton.

Keep tabs on our conference home page for any conference updates, including speaker announcements. Find a copy of the conference agenda here, and learn more about our conference location, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, here.

Secure a Sponsorship or Space in the Conference Exhibit Hall

ASLRRA’s Senior Vice President of Membership and Business Development Kathy Keeney continues to welcome companies interested in sponsoring the Annual Conference and Exhibition and/or securing a booth in the exhibit hall.

There are five different sponsorship packages, each of which come with their own benefits. View the sponsorship prospectus here for more detailed information about each sponsorship level.

Companies interested in purchasing booth space in the exhibit hall can learn more here or view the current hall floorplan here. Again, the hall will feature a green zone to showcase businesses with environmentally friendly products and services.

To be a sponsor or an exhibitor, companies must be ASLRRA members in good standing. Please contact Keeney about sponsorships, exhibit booths and becoming an ASLRRA member.



Scholarships Can Help Pay for ASLRRA’s Upcoming Training Seminars

ASLRRA has a robust schedule of training events planned for 2023 and small railroads looking to have their employees participate should consider the Association’s scholarship program.

Employees at small railroads earning $10 million or less in annual revenue could be awarded a scholarship of up to $1,200 to help pay for registration fees, travel and lodging costs for training covering topics such as track, bridge and signal inspection and maintenance; railroad safety and operations training; locomotive and freight car inspection and maintenance and more.

Special consideration is given to employees at ASLRRA members in the southern region. The Association hopes to award eight to ten scholarships to southern-region small-railroad employees in 2023. Follow the link above to learn more about the scholarship program, or click here to apply. Applications are accepted and evaluated on a rolling basis.


Members Receive Preferred Pricing on Drug and Alcohol Testing Services with Spark TS

Spark TS is the exclusive Preferred Provider of drug and alcohol testing services in the Association’s Member Discount Program.  Spark is passionate about helping railroads and contractors meet FRA drug & alcohol testing requirements, delivering key differentiators for drug and alcohol testing services including railroad industry-specific DAT expertise, online tools and key national partnerships.

Spark TS’s expert team has built a program to offer drug and alcohol testing services and programs to support railroads and contractors in finding 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 and onsite testing services; laboratory and medical review officer (MRO) services; electronic chain of custody forms; and third-party administrator (TPA) - random testing and consortium.

Visit and click on the Spark Training Solutions logo to learn more!


Drug and Alcohol Education Materials Include Downloadable Posters

ASLRRA’s Drug and Alcohol Educational Materials page, developed with experts on ASLRRA’s Safety and Training Committee, includes a variety of materials to help railroads, contractors and employees learn more about required compliance practices and drug and alcohol testing.

One of the newest resources includes a series of posters available for download. Each of the posters can be printed for use on railroad property and are meant to help ensure employees are aware of some of the rules and regulations concerning drug and alcohol use.

Also featured are links to webinar recordings discussing Part 219. Find “Part 210 Education Materials and Correction Affidavits,” “Overview on the Expanded Scope of Part 219,” and “Drug & Alcohol Rules & Regulations” in ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar library. The materials are available to ASLRRA members under the Safety Training Resources section of ASLRRA’s Safety & Compliance page.

Out & About

American University Magazine Profiles ASLRRA’s Sarah Yurasko

American University Magazine featured ASLRRA General Counsel and Senior Vice President-Law Sarah Yurasko in its current issue, focusing on her career path and her current work at the Association and as president of the League of Railway Women.

Yurasko, who received a joint Juris Doctor and Master of Arts degree in international affairs from American University, talked about how she was drawn to the transportation world after an internship with the Federal Aviation Association. She also mentioned her work at the League of Railway Women and commented on the benefit of increased diversity in the railroad world.


ASLRRA Staff Attends Industry Meetings

Last week, ASLRRA President Chuck Baker and Senior Vice President-Law and General Counsel Sarah Yurasko attended the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Annual Conference in Boca Raton, Florida. Yurasko also participated in the conference in her role as president of the League of Railway Women, helping present the organization’s Railway Woman of the Year award to Jean Savage, president and CEO of ASLRRA member parent company Trinity Industries.

Association Vice President-Congressional Affairs Zach Radford also traveled to Florida to lead the  ASLRRA Legislative Policy Committee meeting held in connection with the NRC conference.

This week, ASLRRA Senior Vice President-Safety, Regulatory, and Environmental Policy Jo Strang and Vice President-Communications Amy Krouse attended the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. The Short Line Safety Institute’s Manager of Research and Organizational Development Julia Leone was also at the TRB meeting to present results of a recent study on gender diversity and safety culture in the railroad industry.


ASLRRA Education Fund


Upcoming Webinars

Update on Part 240/242 Audits and FRA Findings Jan. 12, 2023 (TOMORROW)

Join the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Kevin Lewis and ASLRRA’s JR Gelnar for an update on Part 240/242 audits and learn what FRA has discovered during their first year of focused audits on short lines. Lewis will provide information and insight into findings and discuss what FRA will be doing in future audits. This webinar is free for ASLRRA members.

2022 Economic Update and What to Look for in 2023 Jan. 25, 2023

Association of American Railroads (AAR) economists Luisa Fernandez-Willey and Dan Keen will discuss what happened in 2022 with freight traffic and the economy and learn what economic indicators to watch for as we enter 2023. This webinar is free for ASLRRA members.


On-Demand Webinars

Recorded Webinars Help Railroads Communicate in a Variety of Situations

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

  • Crisis Communications Fundamentals for Railroaders, presented by John Ambler, Partner, Corporate Crisis Group
  • Not in my Backyard: Responding/Reacting to NIMBYism in the Community, presented by Janet Gilbert, Partner, Fletcher & Sippel LLC
  • Using Social Media as a Business Development Tool, presented by Stacey Mansfield, Norfolk Southern

Find nearly 200 recorded webinars covering a wide range of topics from regulatory compliance to environmental programs to the grant-application process in ASLRRA’s On-Demand Library. Most of the recordings also have a copy of the accompanying PDF presentation available for download. Visit ASLRRA’s webinar homepage and log in to view all the on-demand offerings in the Association’s webinar library.


Industry Events

Jan. 23 – FRA to Hold Grade Crossing Safety Webinar

On Jan. 23 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. EST the Federal Railroad Administration will hold a webinar discussing grade crossing safety. Agency representatives will provide an update on current safety efforts and talk about different funding opportunities for stakeholders. No registration is necessary; use this link to join.


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