Regulatory – RAISE webinars help prospective applicants
Legislative – Lawmakers show support for short lines at House hearing on rail crossings
New Members – ASLRRA welcomes Coastal Payroll Services, Mullins Law Group
Announcements – Registration open for first four ASLRRA training seminars
ASLRRA Annual Conference – Register before costs increase Feb. 16
Out and About – Baker talks 2024 expectations with Progressive Railroading
Industry News – Events on the horizon for railroaders, high school students
In this new section, we will showcase short line industry stories published in local media. Click a link to view the stories online.
Railroad members! If you want to be featured in this section, please email us the link. You can also tag us (@ASLRRA) in your social media posts. Interested in seeing your railroad showcased in your local newspaper? Contact Amy Krouse for assistance.
Short line railroad employees, at all levels, are known for their hard work and hustle, which is always combined with a sense of responsibility toward their communities and customers. These are the qualities that make ASLRRA’s members such a crucial thread in the fabric of America.
ASLRRA knows the importance of short lines and their work and strives to recognize those members and their employees whose excellence is particularly noteworthy. That’s why the Association’s annual award program covers such diverse topics as business development, veteran support, environmental stewardship and safety performance.
The Association is eager to recognize its members, but relies on nominations to identify candidates for each award. While anecdotal evidence of short line excellence exists in spades, the Association cannot act without a formal nomination submission, and the opportunity to submit nominations for all of ASLRRA’s annual awards ends in little over two weeks, on Feb. 9.
ASLRRA will recognize all of the winners of its awards at the Association’s 2024 Annual Conference & Exhibition, held March 24 to 26 in Kansas City, Missouri. Follow each of the links to learn about the awards and access online nomination forms.
The Veterans Engagement Award honors industry employers who demonstrate positive policies toward U.S. veterans and who implement unique programs and practices to hire, recognize, support, and engage with veterans in the workplace and the broader community. Last year’s winner was Pacific Harbor Line.
The Business Development Award recognizes the Class II and III railroads that have designed and enacted the most innovative and successful business-building initiatives in the small railroad industry. Last year’s winners were Strasburg Rail Road, Kiamichi Railroad and Reading, Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad.
The Environmental Award recognizes a Class II or III railroad that has designed and enacted innovative and successful environmental initiatives, reducing the company’s environmental impact or contributing to meeting sustainability goals for the railroad and/or their shipper(s). Last year’s winner was Pacific Harbor Line.
The Safety Person of the Year Award recognizes a non-management employee of a member railroad who works with management on effective safety programs, exhibits a high degree of safety awareness and contributes off-duty time to activities promoting safety awareness in the community. Last year’s winner was Raul Guerrero of Texas North Western Railway.
The Safety Professional of the Year Award recognizes a railroad management employee of an ASLRRA member railroad who is responsible for safety programs, training and the overall management of safe behavior and actions on their railroad(s) and demonstrates excellence in these areas. Last year’s winner was Austin Milton of The Indiana Rail Road Company.
Railway Age magazine has announced this year’s Fast Trackers 25 Under 40 award winners. Of the 25 winners 13 are employees at ASLRRA-member companies, as are three of the five honorable mention recipients.
The Fast Trackers award recognizes those under the age of 40 who demonstrate significant achievements and leadership qualities in their field and within their organizations. Railway Age will feature each of the winners in its February issue.
ASLRRA-Member Honorable Mentions:
ASLRRA thanks this week’s sponsor of Views & News
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will hold several more webinars prior to the Feb. 28 application deadline for Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grants to help those applying for the $1.5 billion in available funding.
Yesterday a DOT webinar focused on providing guidance for rural and Tribal RAISE applicants. The webinar also discussed how applicants might best utilize the Rural Grant Applicant Toolkit for Competitive Federal Transportation Funding. Half of all RAISE funding will go to projects in rural areas, with such projects, along with projects in a historically disadvantaged community or an area of persistent poverty eligible for up to 100 percent federal cost share.
Upcoming webinars include this Friday’s How to Prepare a Benefit-Cost Analysis for RAISE Grants, Benefit-Cost Analysis Spreadsheet Template and Office Hours on Jan. 31 and What Happens After Being Selected for an Award on Feb. 1. Recordings of previous webinars are also available on the DOT’s fiscal year 2024 RAISE webinar series website.
View a copy of the RAISE grant notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) here.
CRISI Grant NOFO Expected Soon
While the RAISE application period is coming to an end, ASLRRA expects the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program to open for applications in the coming weeks. The Association urges any short line interested in applying for this funding to start preparing their projects and applications, if they have not already done so.
Lawmakers know of the importance of CRISI to short lines and the overall safety of the national rail network (see our article in our Legislative section below) and have urged Federal Railroad Administrator Amit Bose to ensure CRISI applications from small railroads receive fair consideration in the grant process.
ASLRRA’s website includes CRISI grant application information for its members, and the Association’s Member Discount Program features grant-writing Preferred Provider Colliers Engineering and Design, whose employees can help ASLRRA members prepare applications for a variety of grant programs.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued a Fatality Analysis of Maintenance-of-Way Employees and Signalmen (FAMES) alert concerning a recent roadway worker fatality.
The roadway worker, who had ten years of service, was found dead by a train crew in the foul of the track. The employee had been responding to a crossing signal malfunction and was working as a lone worker prior to the accident.
The FAMES Committee, which analyzes such incidents, has not yet reviewed this fatality. However, the alert makes several reminders to roadway workers including remaining vigilant and conducting thorough job briefings before starting each duty period that requires fouling a track.
ASLRRA members can now access an updated version of the Association’s Engineer Certification and Conductor Certification programs, which the Association worked with the FRA to develop. All resources are available in the Compliance Templates section of the Association’s Safety & Compliance webpage.
These updates will not require a railroad to immediately update its program. However, if a railroad is submitting a program to the FRA, the railroad is advised to utilize the newest version. ASLRRA has also updated its Prior Service Form, which can be utilized to obtain current certification information for engineers and conductors. Please contact ASLRRA’s Vice President, Safety and Compliance JR Gelnar with any questions.
ASLRRA submitted a statement for the record to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s rail subcommittee concerning a hearing on railroad grade crossing elimination and safety, which was held Jan. 18. While the hearing’s focus was on crossings and related incidents, discussion of a variety of rail issues took place, including Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grants, locomotive emissions regulations, automated trains and more.
Federal Railroad Administrator Amit Bose, National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy, Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ian Jefferies and Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Michael Smith participated in the hearing as witnesses. During the hearing, ASLRRA’s government affairs team was heartened to hear support for short line priorities from several members of Congress.
Regarding CRISI grants, Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), Rep. David Rouzer (R-N.C.), Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) and Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.) highlighted the importance of CRISI to short lines and how funding infrastructure upgrades is critical to improving rail safety.
All four representatives also urged Bose to ensure short lines receive fair consideration in the CRISI application review process and advised the FRA to avoid large sums being awarded to a “handful of headline-grabbing passenger rail projects.” Bose’s response reiterated the FRA’s commitment to giving “fair and due consideration to short line applications.”
Rouzer and Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) noted the problems of a potential FRA regulation requiring two-person train crews, on which Bose largely declined to comment because their questions concerned a pending rulemaking. AAR’s Jefferies pointed out the lack of objective data to support such a rule.
Stauber and Rep. John Duarte (R-Calif.) spoke on the potential harm to short lines caused by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) locomotive emissions rule. Stauber called the rule “aggressive” and talked about how the California agency admitted its rule could result in the closure of some short lines in the state. When it was Duarte’s turn to speak, he highlighted in particular ASLRRA member Modesto and Empire Traction Company and the significant negative impact CARB’s rule would have on the railroad’s operations.
Bose declined to comment on the CARB rule, but Jefferies took the opportunity to say that beyond CARB’s rule being illegal, the effect of multiple short line closures would be a significant increase in truck traffic on California roads and a snarled supply chain.
In its written statement, ASLRRA provided an overview of the short line freight railroad industry and discussed some policy areas on which lawmakers can focus to help improve grade crossing safety. The Association’s suggestions included supporting the funding opportunities like Railroad Crossing Elimination (RCE) and CRISI grants and the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Railway-Highway Crossings Program, also known as the Section 130 Program. ASLRRA also recommended more funding for crossing safety organization Operation Lifesaver and urged representatives to avoid misguided mandates and advance proven safety efforts.
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.
Coastal Payroll Services is a San Diego, California-based provider of human capital management (HCM) solutions serving clients from coast to coast that prides itself on the personal touch. The team provides human resources solutions, including payroll, helping clients with HR, benefits administration, time and attendance, compliance, and strategic growth. Its customized solutions can support organizations from 1 to 10,000+ employees nationwide. Our primary contact is Director-Channel Partnerships Yira Coleman, who can also be reached on (310) 753-9818. Many thanks to Chelsea Sweet at Bowers CPAs & Advisors for recommending they join.
Mullins Law Group PLLC (MLG), based in Washington, D.C., is a newly formed law firm with a focus on representing railroads, particularly short lines, at the rail regulatory agencies and in state and federal courts. The firm is led by Managing Partner and Founder William (Bill) Mullins, who has 34 years of experience in the transportation industry, including at the former ICC, Departments of Transportation and of Justice, as well as private practice, and has been a featured speaker at ASLRRA conferences. Mullins, our primary contact who can be reached on (202) 663-7850, is joined by other known short line practitioners, Crystal Zorbaugh and Rose-Michele Nardi. MLG can provide ASLRRA members contract, transactional, regulatory, government advocacy, and grant-writing assistance.
Registration is open for four of ASLRRA’s 2024 training seminars, the first of which takes place in April. Click each link below to learn more about each seminar, view hotel information and register for the event.
Scholarships Can Help Railroad Employees Cover Training Costs
Employees of small railroads earning less than $10 million in annual revenue are eligible for an ASLRRA Scholarship to offset training registration costs and travel and lodging expenses. The scholarship application process requires completion of a simple online form. Click here to apply for a $1,200 Golden Scholarship or click here to apply for a $425 Jake Jacobson Scholarship. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and can be applied retroactively to a previously attended training session.
ASLRRA is seeking nominations by Feb. 7 for individuals wishing to run for election to the Association’s board of directors representing associate business members (suppliers).
There are two board seats representing associate members and there is one board vacancy that will need to be filled at the 2024 ASLRRA Annual Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. Kareen Gray from Wabtec and Lucas Brewer from Colliers Engineering & Design are the two associate board members elected by the supplier membership. Brewer will run as an incumbent seeking a second term.
The term for a board member is two years. The board responsibility involves two in-person board meetings annually and several conference calls throughout the year. Board members are also expected to attend the annual conference and fall regional meetings and are urged to attend Railroad Day on Capitol Hill. The newly elected board member will also work closely with the Supplier Committee and provide agenda items to benefit the membership.
A member wishing to suggest themselves or nominate a candidate should contact Nominating Committee Co-Chairs Steve Friedland of Short Line Data Systems or Beth Garguilo of Lincoln Transportation Insurance Brokers. Garguilo can be reached on Beth.Garguilo@lincolnins.com or (315) 768-6110 and Friedland can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org or (973) 769-6505. ASLRRA’s Senior Vice President of Membership & Business Development Kathy Keeney will assist with the election process.
Interested candidates would need to supply a short bio, photo and a few sentences about why they would like to serve on the ASLRRA Board of Directors. They are also welcome to provide a two-minute video outlining their qualifications.
ISB Global Services (ISB) provides Association railroad and supplier members with a suite of employment background screening products allowing them to gather appropriate and accurate information while remaining compliant with privacy legislation.
Companies can use ISB as a one-stop shop for employment screening services including employment history verification, education and professional credential verification, domestic terrorism watchlist searches, motor vehicle records search and more. ISB is also able to provide cargo loss and supply chain security tools and mobile identity verification for secure access to facilities. Members can access product details and members-only pricing by logging in to ASLRRA’s Member Discount webpage.
ASLRRA is actively seeking additional preferred providers of background screening services as well as electronic recordkeeping software and services. To learn more or to join ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program, contact ASLRRA Senior Vice President, Education and Business Development Services Sabrina Waiss.
Each year ASLRRA honors short line railroad and switching members with exemplary safety records by bestowing Jake, Jake with Distinction and President’s Awards. However, to be eligible for these awards, railroad and switching members must first complete the required FRA accident/incident reports for every month of the previous year.
All members must be current on their 2023 report filings by Feb. 29. For more information, please visit ASLRRA’s safety awards page and see the “Performance-based Safety Awards” section. Included there is a link to the required Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Form F 6180.55, the Railroad Injury and Illness Summary. Those with further questions can contact ASLRRA’s Fred Oelsner.
To bolster regulatory knowledge and aid compliance, ASLRRA members can view and download drug and alcohol educational materials such as posters, a Part 219 educational brochure, affidavit templates and employer review documents from the Association website. These resources were designed in consultation with subject matter experts on ASLRRA’s Safety and Training Committee.
The members-only educational materials webpage also features links to webinar recordings discussing Part 219, including “Part 219 Education Materials and Correction Affidavits,” “Overview on the Expanded Scope of Part 219,” and “Drug & Alcohol Rules & Regulations” all available free to members in ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar library.
Rates for ASLRRA’s 2024 Annual Conference will increase on Feb. 16, leaving those planning to attend with little more than three weeks to register before the price to do so goes up.
An increase in registration rates also means an increase in rates for other conference events, namely golf. Former ASLRRA Board Chair Doc Claussen issued his annual golf challenge video, calling on conference attendees to prove their mettle on March 26 at the Paradise Pointe Golf Complex.
The Association expects well over a hundred participants to participate in the golf tournament, but that is only a fraction of the total number of people who will take part in the nearly 50 hours of education sessions that precede golf, visit the 240 booths in the Expo Hall, network with countless railroad industry professionals, listen to engaging featured speakers during the General Session and participate in various other social engagements.
The Annual Conference is the premier short line industry event. Don’t pay extra for the privilege of attending. Click here to register before prices go up on Feb. 16.
Hotel Rooms, Sponsorships and Expo Hall Booths
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 page when making hotel reservations.
ASLRRA members can still purchase a sponsorship or reserve a booth in the conference Expo Hall. Click here to learn about the different types of sponsorship opportunities available, or click here to learn about exhibit booths. For more information about either, contact ASLRRA’s Kathy Keeney via email or by phone at (202) 585-3439.
Chuck Baker participated in an interview with RailPrime, the online subscription arm of Progressive Railroading magazine, to give his outlook for the short line industry in 2024.
Baker noted a focus on continued growth this year, with short lines looking to build in part on the efforts of Class I railroads to rebound from service issues that were prominent in 2021 and 2022. Baker also discussed ASLRRA’s legislative priorities for 2024, highlighting the Association’s excitement about CRISI grants and other funding opportunities at the state and federal levels.
Baker also touched on other areas of focus for ASLRRA, including its support for the Short Line Railroad Relief Act and the Association’s work to address pending rail safety legislation and environmental regulations.
Information from the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) is important to ASLRRA members and webinars on the subject are popular. ASLRRA joined with the RRB to present a three-part series on railroad retirement eligibility and benefits and the recordings are available online. The following titles can be found in ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar Library:
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 Association of Car Accounting and Car Services Officers (ACACSO) will hold its annual meeting May 8 to 10 at the Holiday Inn Austin Town Lake in Austin, Texas.
The conference will feature presentations, workshops and discussions on topics including car hire, fleet management and damaged and defective car tracking (DDCT). ACACSO encourages railroad professionals and private equipment owners of all functions and disciplines to attend. More information will be forthcoming and available on the ACACSO website.
The Michigan Tech Transportation Institute (MTTI) will hold two separate sessions of its Tracks to the Future summer youth program in June.
The program offers high-school students an opportunity to learn about railroad transportation and engineering. Activities include both virtual and hands-on learning and field trips to host universities. The first session takes place June 10 to 14, and the second session takes place June 24 to 28.
Students who will be enrolled in grades 9 to 12 in fall 2024 are eligible. Program applications are due March 15.
Progressive Railroading magazine has opened the nomination period for its Rising Stars Awards, which recognize up-and-coming leaders in the North American railroad industry.
The publication will recognize 25 individuals under 40 who are making a positive difference in their company, department or team and are recognized by their colleagues and peers for their current excellence and future potential. Winners will be honored in a virtual celebration in July and featured in the September edition of Progressive Railroading.
Click here for a nomination form. The deadline for nominations is March 8.
Click here for a calendar of industry events.
Views & News is published by American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.
Please contact Mariel Takamura, associate editor, with questions or comments.