To help organizations capitalize on the over $32 billion in grant funding available for fiscal year 2023 programs, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued a discretionary grant preparation checklist as part of its new DOT Navigator online resource.
According to the DOT, the checklist is meant to help eligible entities “prepare for the year ahead and chart a strategic pathway” to develop strong project proposals and take advantage of the historic amounts of funding available. Among other tasks, the list encourages potential applicants to familiarize themselves with the DOT’s calendar of funding opportunities, prepare a benefit-cost analysis for capital projects, build a strong workforce development and labor plan.
The DOT Navigator website consolidates a wide variety of resources including those for grant applications and technical assistance. There is also a section on Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) funding opportunities and links to help individuals connect with their local transportation contacts.
Having a strong project plan is a key part of the grant application process. To that end, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has released its own guidance for the development and implementation of railroad capital projects. Through the guidance, the agency looks to help project sponsors prepare for funding opportunities and successful grant-funded projects.
The FRA’s document gives an overview of a typical project lifecycle before going into more detail concerning the stages of a project lifecycle and project management.
ASLRRA also offers resources to help members navigate the federal grant process. There are general tips for preparing a successful application on the Association’s CRISI Grant Application page, as well as recorded webinars in ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar library. And ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program features grant-writing Preferred Providers who offer assistance at competitive pricing.
Two Webinars Added to RAISE Series
Applications for fiscal year 2023 RAISE discretionary grants are due Feb. 28 and the DOT has added two new webinars to help prospective applicants navigate the process.
Tomorrow, the DOT will present “How to Prepare a Benefit-Cost Analysis for RAISE Grants” and on Feb. 1 will present “How to Use the New RAISE Mapping Tool.” Attendees will be able to participate in a question and answer segment, but those who cannot attend live will be able to access a recording that will be uploaded later to the DOT website.
The agency has already presented three webinars to help applicants best compete for RAISE grants. One webinar offered general application information, another was geared toward new applicants and the third focused on rural and tribal applicants. Recordings of each of these webinars is available online.
Railway Age magazine announced the winners of the 2023 Fast Trackers 25 Under 40 Awards and this year 15 of the 25 honorees are employees at ASLRRA-member companies.
The awards recognize individuals who are seen as leaders on the rise in the railroad world. They represent all parts of the industry including passenger and freight rail, government entities, suppliers, contractors and consultants.
Railway Age will showcase all of this year’s Fast Trackers in its February issue. ASLRRA congratulates all the winners, particularly those from its member companies.
The January edition of the Railroad Retirement Board’s (RRB) monthly question and answer (Q&A) series talks about the RRB’s customer service performance during fiscal year 2022 and whether it met standards put forth in the agency’s Customer Service Plan.
According to the Q&A, the RRB’s overall benefit timeliness index was 98.9 percent, meaning the agency provided benefit service within the standards of the Customer Service Plan 98.9 percent of the time. In addition, the RRB reports that its fiscal year 2022 performance met or exceeded all its customer service performance goals for the year, except in the areas of initial survivor annuities, lump-sum death benefits, unemployment applications and disability decisions and payments.
Every year the RRB assesses its customer service performance based on standards outlined in its plan. The Customer Service Plan promotes the principles of openness, accessibility, accountability, feedback and timeliness as applied to several key areas including retirement and survivor applications, disability applications and payments and more.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released a Post-Accident Toxicological Testing Determination Chart for 2023.
The flowchart is meant to help railroads determine whether a regulated employee should be subject to drug or alcohol testing after an accident or incident. The chart was effective Jan. 1 and expires Dec. 31.
ASLRRA offers several resources to help members comply with FRA regulations concerning drug and alcohol testing. This includes a post-accident toxicological testing training video produced with input from the FRA, as well as Part 219 templates and other materials available in the Compliance Templates section of the Safety & Compliance page.
The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council offered its own take on the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) proposed rule to mandate two-person train crews, focusing in part on the comments submitted by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy while also presenting data on the safety of one- versus two-person crews and the role of small businesses in the railroad sector.
Article author Raymond Keating highlighted the key points presented by the Office of Advocacy before discussing a 2021 study by consulting firm Oliver Wyman on the safety of two-person crews. According to Keating, the study showed “no evidence that railroads operating with two-person crews are statistically safer than railroads operating with one-person crews.” Moreover, analyzing the data according to different accident categories still found “no significant differences in safety statistics based on crew size.”
Keating also referenced Mark Scribner, a senior transportation policy analyst at the Reason Foundation, who prepared comments on behalf of the organization that again emphasized the lack of evidence to support arguments that multiple-person crews are safer than one-person crews.
Rounding out Keating’s article is a table showing the significant number of small businesses directly or indirectly impacted by freight railroads. The table shows that over 98 percent of firms in eight industries, including packing and crating, retail trade, construction and agriculture and forestry, have fewer than 500 workers. And firms with fewer than 100 workers comprise 69 percent or more of all businesses in all the industries listed.
Overall, Keating points out that “Class II and III railroads are all small businesses” and questions why federal regulators are “seeking to undermine” railroads “with costly regulations that make no sense from any reasonable economic, safety or industry perspective.”
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.
360 Rail Services, based in Englewood, Colorado and Baytown, Texas, is a rail industry services provider created to serve as an integrated one-stop, full-service solution for customers seeking quality professional rail services. With more than 150 years of combined railroad and project management experience, 360 Rail Services offers industry-leading, comprehensive rail services and project delivery throughout the United States and Canada. Its award-winning design, innovative problem solving and budget-conscious approach has made 360 Rail Services a preferred track infrastructure provider for industries large and small. Their full-service approach provides clients with seamless integration to multiple in-house disciplines: Track Design/Engineering, Track Construction, Simulation Modeling, Signaling, Operations, Track Maintenance and Geospatial Mapping. Contact 360 Rail Services at 720-580-2545 and visit them in Booth 1123 at the 2023 Annual Conference & Expo in New Orleans to learn more about the company.
The Okonite Company, based in Ramsey, New Jersey, is a wire and cable manufacturer supplying the railroad and transit industry since 1878. It stocks a wide variety of signal and power cables with a proven track record of long and reliable life. It can special manufacture most cable designs, and maintains several stocking service center locations around the country as well as domestic manufacturing plants to serve customers more promptly. Our primary contact is Harry Waters, VP – Rail & Transit, who can also be reached on (770) 856-8093. Learn more about them by visiting Booth 563 at the ASLRRA Annual Conference & Expo in New Orleans.
As part of its slate of educational sessions offered at the ASLRRA Annual Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans, ASLRRA’s Young Professionals Committee is offering participants a chance to become an authorized Operation Lifesaver (OLI) volunteer, teaching those in their local communities about the importance of rail safety.
This is the first time ASLRRA has coordinated with OLI to offer volunteer certification to Association members. To complete the training, individuals must indicate their interest when registering online for the annual conference. They will then receive instructions from Operation Lifesaver coordinators about completing online classroom instruction prior to the in-person training that will take place at the conference. All volunteer training comprises the online and in-person components.
In addition to OLI volunteer certification, the Young Professionals Committee will be offering two other sessions. In “Getting the Most Out of Your Membership,” a panel of ASLRRA leaders including President Chuck Baker and Supplier Committee Chair Erika Bruhnke will talk about the benefits available to ASLRRA members and how to capitalize on the resources and other opportunities the Association provides.
And in “Jump Start Your Financial Goals,” participants will learn about financial planning and how to best manage finances in the early to mid-stages of their careers.
Attendees can also book their hotel rooms online in one of ASLRRA’s hotel room blocks at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside or the Sheraton New Orleans. The cutoff date for booking a room in the room block is March 6 unless the block is sold out before then.
Nominations for all ASLRRA's annual awards 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 Environmental Award will recognize an ASLRRA-member railroad that has enacted innovative and successful environmental initiatives in the small railroad industry.
The Business Development Awards recognize railroad members whose innovative ideas to build business and promote economic development have been a success.
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, while the Safety Professional of the Year goes to a railroad management employee.
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.
Railway Age’s Short Line and Regional Railroad of the Year Awards
Railway Age magazine is also soliciting nominations for its Short Line of the Year and Regional Railroad of the Year awards. These awards recognize a Class III and Class II railroad, respectively, that have demonstrated outstanding achievement in one or more areas including operational innovation, marketing, community relations and more.
Nominations for these awards are due Feb. 1. Winners will be recognized at ASLRRA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition. They will also be the subject of a feature article in the March issue of Railway Age, which will be distributed at ASLRRA’s conference.
Registration is now open for ASLRRA’s May training seminar in Phoenix, Arizona.
The seminar will cover regulations Part 228, 240 and 242, which focus on hours of service and engineer and conductor certification. Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Hours of Service Specialist William Smith and FRA Program Manager Kevin Lewis will join ASLRRA Vice President-Safety and Compliance JR Gelnar in conducting the training.
Participants will talk about proper recordkeeping for hours of service, review requirements for engineer and conductor certification, learn how the FRA performs a Part 240 and 242 audit and more.
The seminar takes place May 23 to 24. Space is limited to 40 attendees, so those interested in joining should register as soon as possible.
Training Scholarships Available
Employees of small railroads can apply for scholarships of up to $1,200 to attend training opportunities like ASLRRA’s May seminar.
The scholarships cover registration fees and travel and lodging costs. Learn more about ASLRRA’s industry scholarships and use this link to complete a scholarship application. Applications are reviewed and scholarships awarded on a rolling basis.
ASLRRA is seeking nominations for individuals wishing to run for election to the Association’s board of directors representing Associate Business Members (suppliers).
The term for a director is two years. 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 email@example.com or (973) 769-6505. ASLRRA’s Senior Vice President of Membership and Business Development Kathy Keeney will assist with the election process.
Nominations are due Feb. 17. 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 2-minute video outlining their qualifications.
ASLRRA member railroads can turn tie inspections into savings and improved safety with Loram’s Aurora Track Inspection Technology. As an exclusive ASLRRA Preferred Provider, Loram offers discount pricing on its Aurora Track Inspection Technology featuring state-of-the-art imaging technology that scans track to reveal the specific condition of every tie along the way, pinpointing potential problems and marking their exact location.
A comprehensive tie inspection using Loram’s Aurora technology provides a detailed report that enables a railroad to streamline capital maintenance programs and helps ensure their compliance reports are in line with industry regulations, while also helping them to plan repairs in the most efficient way possible.
All ASLRRA Member Discount Program Preferred Providers are carefully vetted companies committed to providing discounted pricing, special offers and guaranteed exceptional services on a range of industry-specific products and services. Visit ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program page to view all Preferred Providers and learn how Loram’s Aurora Track Inspection Technology can make your operations safer and more efficient.
On Jan. 19 ASLRRA President Chuck Baker attended the quarterly meeting of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Transportation, Infrastructure and Supply Chain Committee. The meeting, which took place in Washington, D.C., featured updates from Chamber of Commerce representatives, Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt and others.
ASLRRA always welcomes educational content for its webinar program. Members can submit their ideas for topics and speakers to the Association’s Senior Vice President, Education and Business Services Sabrina Waiss. Waiss can also provide information about webinar sponsorships.
The webinar recordings available in the Safety and Operations category of ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar Library include a series presented by Robin McFalls of Railinc who discusses repairing railcars and reporting the repairs to meet regulatory requirements. Look for the following titles:
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.
Click here to learn more about ASLRRA’s education offerings.
The Federal Railroad Administration will hold an in-person workshop on rail decarbonization May 15 to 18 in Denver, Colorado.
The workshop will feature discussions on clean energy technologies that can help decarbonize the rail transportation sector. There will also be talks on safety, technologies and operating best practices for improving efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
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.