Part of ASLRRA’s mission is to advocate on behalf of its members with regulators and legislators concerning important freight rail issues. To achieve that, the Association has developed new advocacy pages that discuss the short line position on a number of key topics.
ASLRRA’s new pages are titled:
As is evident in current state and federal regulatory efforts concerning issues like crew size and locomotive emissions, many lawmakers paint all railroads with a single brush, when ASLRRA’s Class II and III railroad members operate very differently from and often on much slimmer margins than their Class I counterparts. This is a key distinction that ASLRRA staff members work constantly to convey to government officials and the general public.
At the same time, ASLRRA believes advocating for these issues is not only in the interests of short line freight railroads; it serves the interests of the U.S. as a whole. Freight rail is a safe, cost-effective way to move goods over land, and study after study has shown that it is environmentally friendly as well. Short lines serve as the vital link between communities and businesses and the greater transportation network, sustaining local economies and keeping the national supply chain strong.
To access all of the Association’s advocacy information, use the links above or find them under the Advocacy tab on the Association’s homepage. Also available is a Short Line Overview page and other short line industry fact sheets.
ASLRRA wishes Judy Petry a hearty congratulations on her retirement as president and general manager of Farmrail effective Dec. 1, 2022. She will continue as a director of parent company Farmrail System, Inc.’s board. Petry will also remain involved with the industry as a director of the Alaska Railroad.
Petry came to Farmrail on the plains of western Oklahoma in 1987 as a transplant from a small town in the Louisiana Delta, initially as Farmrail’s manager of accounting services. Armed with a finance background and an instinctive curiosity, she learned about the railroad business by constantly questioning the numbers generated by its individual departments. A combination of personal attributes – a big personality, ambition, commitment, imagination, creativity, organization, multi-tasking and communication skills, outreach, willingness to travel – made her a natural insider candidate to become Farmrail’s president and general manager in 2013.
Petry subsequently guided Farmrail through the remainder of a 35-year career in which the company expanded from its original 80 miles to the current 347 miles serving 12 counties primarily dependent on agricultural production and oilfield development. She was also instrumental in the joint venture creating upstate New York’s Finger Lakes Railway, serving as its controller since its inception in 1995.
“Judy has been a towering figure in the ASLRRA for the last 20 years. Beginning as a volunteer at our annual conventions, Judy played an active role on ASLRRA’s board since 2004 and served as its first female chair from 2016-2019. She was a mentor to many new leaders, and always pushed for the betterment of our Association and our industry, ‘doing collectively what none of us can do individually’,” said ASLRRA President Chuck Baker.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to evaluate safety culture on your railroad using ‘the most robust model for assessing safety culture in the U.S. railroad industry’ per a research paper produced by the Federal Railroad Administration. The SLSI can evaluate freight, passenger, commuter, tourist and historic railroad operations at no cost to the railroad!
Interested in leveling up leadership skills in your organization? Consider the SLSI’s Leadership Development program – rated by more than 97% of participants as valuable, and a worthwhile investment in their career development. Moreover, they would recommend the program to a colleague in the railroad industry.
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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) informed ASLRRA that railroads submitting a program for 49 CFR Part 240, Qualification and Certification of Locomotive Engineers, or Part 242, Qualification and Certification of Conductors, must also submit one of two letters concerning employee knowledge of the program.
Railroads must include a letter stating either that labor-union employees received a copy of the program or that the railroad’s employees are not represented by a labor union. Templates for both types of letters are available to ASLRRA members on the Association’s website in the Compliance Templates section of the Safety & Compliance page. Those with questions should contact ASLRRA’s Vice President, Safety and Compliance JR Gelnar.
ASLRRA joined several other organizations in signing a letter sent by the Coalition against Bigger Trucks (CABT) to members of key House and Senate congressional committees. The letter urges members of the 118th Congress to oppose legislation that would increase maximum truck size and weight limits on federal highway, to include refusing to issue exemptions or waivers for current limits or allow increases as part of a pilot program.
The letter points out the potential consequences of allowing bigger trucks on the road, such as damage caused to roads and bridges. As CABT notes, a 2021 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. roads a D grade and bridges a C. Allowing longer, heavier trucks would only exacerbate these problems and, according to CABT, require “billions of dollars in new federal spending” to repair.
ASLRRA is a member of CABT, which comprises organizations from a variety of sectors including law enforcement, local government, transportation and labor unions. The coalition works to raise awareness of the hazards of large semitrailer trucks and to advocate for highway safety and sound transportation policies.
More lawmaker assignments to congressional committees have been finalized, including those committees focused on issues important to ASLRRA and its members.
Yesterday, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Chair Rep Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and Ranking Member Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) announced the T&I subcommittee rosters. Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) will be chair of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials and Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.) will be ranking member.
The chair of the House Appropriations Committee’s Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Subcommittee will be Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who will also serve as the Appropriations Committee vice chair. Appropriations Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) unveiled Democratic rosters for each subcommittee with Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) serving as THUD ranking member.
Leadership decisions have yet to be settled in the Senate, but Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has released a list of Democratic committee memberships.
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.
Acuity International provides process and technology-based critical services to global government and commercial enterprises. Acuity designs, manages, and implements integrated workplace health and occupational healthcare programs that address its clients’ most complex requirements. It provides Medical Exams, Drug & Alcohol Testing, FRA exams, DOT exams, Commercial Driver's License exams, Chart Reviews, Status Correspondence, Medical Review Officer (MRO) processing, Assistance with Litigated Files, Absence Case Management & Workers’ Compensation, Wellness, Education and Prevention, Industrial Hygiene and Environmental Health & Safety, Onsite Health Clinics and Mobile Medical Exam Services. Our primary contact is Senior Account Executive Kevin Hill, who can be reached on (571) 665-1081. Learn more about them in Booth 767 at ASLRRA’s annual expo in New Orleans.
American Industrial Transport (AITX), based in Saint Charles, Missouri, owns and/or manages over 65,000 railcars and operates approximately 20 railcar maintenance and repair locations. AITX also has approximately 10 Mobile Repair Units, (MRU), that support the Southern and Midwest regions. Our primary contact is VP-Repair Services Greg Gibson, who can also be reached on (270) 543-3102. Many thanks to Connie Vail of Belpre Industrial Parkersburg Railroad for recommending they join ASLRRA.
MapleMark Bank, with roots that go back over 100 years, serves the diverse banking needs of a variety of clients from its headquarters in Dallas, Texas. Its experienced leadership team specializes in doing deals other banks won’t or can’t, delivering solutions and services typically reserved for the very largest companies and highest net worth individuals. MapleMark’s Director of Business Development is a former employee of a major short line holding company and its Government Programs team offers unique financing solutions tailored to railroads and their shippers. Our primary contact is Mack Renner, who can be reached on (918) 221-5584.
ASLRRA is pleased to announce CSX President and CEO Joseph Hinrichs will be one of the General Session key speakers at this year’s ASLRRA Annual Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans.
Hinrichs will share his perspective on 2023 priorities, the freight rail outlook, and partnership opportunities with short lines. He took the helm at CSX last fall, bringing over 30 years of experience in the global automotive, manufacturing and energy sectors.
Register today to hear from Hinrichs and the many other industry experts who will lead education sessions focused on topics like locomotive maintenance and repair, the federal grant process, vegetation management, environmental resiliency and more.
Beyond the education sessions, ASLRRA’s annual conference offers networking opportunities in the Expo Hall and popular activities like golf. This year, ASLRRA member New Orleans Public Belt Railroad is offering a port tour to conference attendees.
Early bird registration for ASLRRA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition expires on Feb. 15, at which point prices will increase for all rates and additional activities.
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.
Be Wary of Hotel Scams
ASLRRA reminds its members that no one is authorized by the Association to contact them directly to arrange hotel accommodations for the Association’s annual conference in New Orleans.
Hotel poachers will call individuals claiming to be an ASLRRA “partner” or “official housing company” and offer to make room arrangements while requiring payments be made up front and in full. Often room reservations are non-existent or the hotel is located far from the actual event location. Sometimes, victims can also be charged significant cancellation fees.
Members looking to make hotel arrangements should do so directly through links on the Association’s website or by calling hotels using the numbers listed on ASLRRA’s site. Anyone contacted by a solicitor identifying themselves as an official ASLRRA representative should contact the Association’s Vice President of Meetings Amy Westerman immediately by phone at (202) 585-3449 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Veteran and non-veteran railroaders alike have often commented on the good match short line industry jobs make for military members who are familiar with the level of discipline and attention to detail needed to safely operate locomotives and move freight by train. The short line railroad industry has a rich history of supporting U.S. service members not only by recruiting and hiring veterans but also through community outreach, donations and volunteer work.
ASLRRA works to bring attention to the ways its railroad and supplier members engage veterans and the military community through stories on its “ASLRRA Members Support Veterans” webpage and with the Association’s Veterans Engagement Award.
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. ASLRRA is accepting nominations for this year’s award, and the 2023 Veterans Engagement Award winner will be recognized at ASLRRA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans. Nominations are due March 3.
Other ASLRRA Awards Also Accepting Nominations
ASLRRA is continuing to accept nominations for its other annual awards, which are also due March 3. Winners of these awards will, like the Veterans Engagement Award recipient, 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.
Individuals wishing to run for election to the Association’s board of directors representing Associate Business Members (suppliers) still have two weeks to submit a nomination.
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. Nominations are due Feb. 17.
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.
Employees of small railroads can apply for scholarships of up to $1,200 to attend training opportunities like ASLRRA’s May seminar. 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.
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.
The Short Line Training Center, a collaborative project created by ASLRRA and member Iowa Northern Railway Company, is a comprehensive training resource for short line railroads that combines an online Learning Management System (LMS) with a Mobile Technical Training Center equipped with locomotive simulators.
The LMS is an online platform and hub that is available at any time to deliver and track industry-specific training and assessments. Features include interactive coursework and assessments and the ability to assign courses to employees, manage team reports and upload training records.
The Mobile Technical Training Center is equipped with two FRA Type II locomotive simulators plus classroom space for six students and an instructor. The center can deliver personalized, instructor-led seminars and locomotive simulator training on location anywhere in the continental United States.
The training center includes generic profiles to match all types of railroad topography to run simulations that closely resemble a railroad’s territory without the need to build custom track, enabling railroads to meet a wide range of training and regulatory requirements.
The first precursor to ASLRRA, the Short Line Railroad Association of the Southeast, formed in 1913. Over a century later, today’s ASLRRA continues the work started by the original 22 short line railroad managers who wanted to amend the federal railway mail pay law. Advocacy in federal legislative matters remains a key part of ASLRRA’s mission.
In his column for the February issue of Railway Age magazine, ASLRRA President Chuck Baker reflects on the Association’s start and its future plans, in particular a return to in-person legislative outreach at Railroad Day on Capitol Hill and the educational opportunities provided by ASLRRA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition.
Baker hones in on the work to be done at Railroad Day on Capitol Hill – educating freshman members of Congress on the short line industry; explaining the damaging impact of crew size and truck size and weight regulations; and highlighting the importance of federal funding programs. He encourages railroad industry professionals and stakeholders to attend the May 17 event in Washington, D.C., to help “carry on the important legislative work originally envisioned by ASLRRA’s 22 founding members.”
Legislative issues will also be featured during the education sessions at ASLRRA’s annual conference, which will be held April 2 to 4 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Baker points out a particular session focused on federal grant opportunities, where attendees will leave better prepared to capitalize on the billions of dollars being made available for infrastructure funding.
ASLRRA President Chuck Baker spoke today about short lines and freight rail at the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) 2023 winter meeting in Washington, D.C.
Baker’s speech talked about some of the service and labor issues that made the news in 2022 and expressed optimism that the rail industry would be rounding the corner in 2023. He also emphasized the ways short lines worked harder than ever to navigate the difficulties of 2022 by leaning into their trademark business ingenuity and dedicated customer service.
Legislative issues were another focus of Baker’s talk. He highlighted ASLRRA’s priorities for the coming year, including advocating for robust Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant funding, helping advance a federal disaster relief fund for short lines and exploring opportunities to support agricultural rail customers via Congress’s farm bill.
Baker touched on regulatory issues, reiterating ASLRRA’s stance on the federal crew-size proposed rule and before closing with comments on state rail programs and the important work being done by state departments of transportation to support short line railroads.
This webinar will give an overview of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Railroads for National Defense program and talk about rail lines designated as Strategic Rail Corridor Network (STRACNET) and Defense Connectors. Presenter Dan Zedack, project engineer with the Railroads for National Defense Program, will also discuss DOD’s expectations for railroads designated as part of STRACNET and opportunities for DOD advocacy in Federal Railroad Administration discretionary grant programs.
This webinar is free for both ASLRRA members and non-members. Find a downloadable copy of the current STRACNET report and maps here.
The webinar recordings available in ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar Library cover industry-specific communications and reporting systems like the confidential close call report system and emergency notification systems. Look for the following titles in the Association’s webinar library:
Find these and nearly 200 other recorded webinars covering a wide range of topics from regulatory compliance to environmental programs to the grant-application process in ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar 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.
Representatives from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will inform project sponsors about temporary waivers for requirements under the Build America, Buy America Act (BABA) during a webinar on Feb. 7.
The webinar will talk about the effect of these waivers on construction materials purchases. Learn more at the link above or click here to register.
Staff from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will present a webinar on Feb. 8 to discuss resources available to help potential grant applicants navigate DOT funding opportunities.
Federal Railroad Administrator Amit Bose will be one of the webinar speakers. A topic of particular focus will be the DOT Navigator, which consolidates a number of resources for grant applicants. Currently open funding opportunities will also be discussed.
Click here to register for the webinar.
High school students can now register for the Tracks to the Future: Railroad Transportation and Engineering summer program, a week-long rail-focused educational opportunity offered at six host sites across the U.S.
Session one will take place June 19-23 at universities in Michigan, South Carolina and California. Session two will take place July 17-21 in New Mexico, Illinois and Pennsylvania. The first two days of each session are dedicated to virtual learning, with students traveling to participate in on-site instruction the last half of the week. Scholarships are also available for interested participants. Follow the link above for more information and to register.
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.