Views & News - February 14, 2024

Views & News


Issue Highlights:

Regulatory – ASLRRA responds to DOE RFI; FRA issues two safety bulletins

Legislative – U.S. Representative Nehls visits ASLRRA member WSOR

New Members – ASLRRA welcomes new member Rototilt

ASLRRA Annual Conference – Conference features new procurement education track

NEW SECTION! Grants & Funding – Reviewing FRA terms and conditions for grant agreements helps grantees know what to expect

Industry News – University of Wisconsin-Madison offers spring railroad engineering courses


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Short Line Notable News

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.

Registration Opens for Railroad Day on Capitol Hill

Registration is now open for Railroad Day on Capitol Hill, the railroad industry’s annual advocacy event that will take place on May 8 in Washington, D.C.

The event will bring together representatives from short lines, Class Is, suppliers, supporting industry associations and other stakeholders to meet with lawmakers and congressional offices to discuss matters important to railroads. For ASLRRA’s members, this is an invaluable opportunity to connect with their federal representatives who craft the policies that affect their operations.

The day’s schedule includes breakfast and materials pickup, meetings on Capitol Hill and an evening reception. Additional registration is required to sign up for the evening reception. Participants will also be invited to a pre-event training session held via Zoom. Click here to register for the event.

ASLRRA is also welcoming companies interested in sponsoring Railroad Day on Capitol Hill. Sponsors are recognized in various ways at the event, in ASLRRA publications and on social media. Click here to learn more about the types of sponsorship opportunities and to become a sponsor.


Annual Conference Rates to Rise Feb. 17, Room Block Rates Expire Feb. 27

All conference registration rates for the ASLRRA Annual Conference and Exhibition will increase on Feb. 17. This includes the cost of spouse or guest registration, continuing legal education (CLE) credits, golf and golf club rentals. The Association’s room block rate is also set to expire on Feb. 27 at the three hotels where ASLRRA has a room block. Room rates will increase after Feb. 27 if rooms are not sold out before then. Be sure to use ASLRRA’s conference hotel website when booking lodging to avoid poaching scams.



ASLRRA Files Response to DOE’s Request for Information Regarding Alternative Fuels

On Feb. 12, ASLRRA submitted a response to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Request for Information (RFI) regarding the progression to net-zero emission propulsion technologies for the rail sector.

The RFI asked specific questions regarding net-zero emission propulsion technologies to understand the rail industry’s current state of technology regarding zero-emissions propulsion technology, progress towards transition to alternative technologies, alternative fuels, what is driving the adoption of alternative propulsion technologies and what barriers exist to achieving the transition to net-zero emissions.

ASLRRA’s comments address each of the DOE’s 17 questions, outlining the current realities that small business freight railroads face, including limited capital, when pursuing net-zero emission technology. The comments also discuss the short- to medium-term limitations in commercial availability of locomotives using battery powered electric (BEL) and hydrogen fuel and describe the many ways short lines are currently addressing their environmental impact while pointing out the challenges ahead for short lines in any shift to net-zero emission propulsion.

ASLRRA is in an ongoing dialogue on these topics with the DOE, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Transportation (DOT), including through the work of the Association’s Environmental, Mechanical and Legislative Policy Committees. Member input and questions are always welcome, and can be directed to ASLRRA’s Richard Sherman.


FRA Issues Two Safety Bulletins Addressing Rolling Equipment and PTC Errors

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued two safety bulletins, one involving the securement of rolling equipment and the other concerning positive train control (PTC) error and malfunction.

Safety Bulletin 2024-01 reminds railroad workers to properly secure rolling equipment. The FRA issued the bulletin after a fatal accident that occurred when a locomotive engineer conducting switching operations was hit by a set of 35 cars that rolled uncontrolled from another part of the yard and collided with the engineer’s locomotive. The engineer was ejected from the locomotive cab.

While the FRA is continuing to conduct its investigation, the bulletin offers several ways railroads can improve safety. This includes ensuring employees have adequate training on operating rules and procedures for securing rolling equipment; empowering employees to seek clarification of safety rules and reminding employees of the dangers associated with improperly secured rolling equipment.

Safety Bulletin 2024-02 informs railroads of software defects in the Interoperable Electronic Train Management System’s (I-ETMS) onboard software that could cause the PTC system to not enforce a speed restriction. While the defect was found during lab testing and the risk associated with the defect is considered low, the FRA makes two recommendations railroads should implement immediately while the defect fix is currently being developed.

FRA Publishes New Technical Reports and Research Results Online

The FRA has also added to its online library two technical reports and a set of research results.

The first technical report presents the findings an analysis of off-the-shelf devices that could be used to construct a sensor platform that would adequately support automated train operations. Data analysis suggests it is possible to develop a sensor platform to benefit railroad operations, but more research is necessary.

The second technical report discusses efforts by the Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) to examine and quantify the challenges presented to North American railroads by broken spikes in timber crosstie track. The report notes that broken spikes are difficult to find during inspections, have caused at least 10 derailments and are particularly problematic in curves. The report provides hypotheses regarding the cause of broken spikes and recommends additional research.

The research results describe efforts to collect samples of naturally occurring, service-induced rail flaws to add to the Rail Flaw Library of Associated Defects (RF-LOAD). Researchers analyzed the flaw samples and created models of them, testing different inspection techniques. This information can be used by other industry scholars to support rail inspection research, especially regarding inspection system optimization.


ASLRRA Posts Revised AAR Circular for Members

The Association of American Railroads’ (AAR) Hazmat Committee reviewed AAR’s operating-transportation circular OT-55-R Section I A and determined that the document needed to be edited to resolve a discrepancy.

The circular provides recommended railroad operating practices for transporting hazardous materials. The discrepancy concerned the definition of a key train as listed in the United States Hazardous Materials Instructions (USHMI) for Rail  SECTION VII, (2), (C), and the definition of a key train in OT-55-R.

AAR has made the updated circular available to its members, and ASLRRA members can find the updated document by logging in to ASLRRA’s Compliance Templates website and viewing “US Hazardous Materials Instructions for Rail” in the Part 172 Security Program section.

AAR publishes OT circulars to provide guidance on various rail topics. Industry experts consult with AAR on OT circulars, and ASLRRA’s Vice President, Safety and Compliance JR Gelnar is a member of AAR’s Hazmat Committee.


FAMES Committee Updates Good Faith Challenge Safety Alert

The Fatality Analysis of Maintenance-of-Way Employees and Signalmen (FAMES) Committee released an updated safety alert concerning roadway worker good faith challenges.

The committee updated the data included in the alert, which reminds railroads and workers of their right to raise and resolve on-track safety concerns. Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulations 49 CFR 214, subpart C provides for the good faith challenge procedure, and all railroads are required to have a program that “must spell out the good faith challenge procedures and the roles and responsibilities of employers and employees in the prompt and equitable resolution of challenges.”

The safety alert provides recommendations to roadway workers and supervisors about the good faith challenge process, including encouraging workers to review their railroad’s challenge procedures and employers to identify and remove any barriers to utilization of the challenge process.





U.S. Representative Nehls Tours ASLRRA Member Wisconsin and Southern Railroad

ASLRRA member Wisconsin and Southern Railroad (WSOR) welcomed U.S. Representative Troy Nehls (R-Texas), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, for a tour on Feb. 9. Nehls visited WSOR’s Glendale Yard and toured facilities and a rail siding owned by WSOR customer PAK Technologies.

During the visit, Nehls and the group spoke about several railroad issues. One focus was the impact of pending rail safety legislation on short line railroads and the desire to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to rail regulations. Also discussed were ways the federal government might support workforce training and development for railroad workers and other tradespeople; efforts to bolster funding for grade crossing safety and elimination; and ideas for ensuring that freight railroads are well-represented in Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant awards.

Nehls is a strong advocate of short lines and has visited several ASLRRA members in his home state of Texas. He has also supported short line efforts in other ways, such as co-sponsoring the Short Line Railroad Relief Act and signing letters to leaders of the House Appropriations Committee’s transportation subcommittee urging robust investment in the CRISI program.

ASLRRA Urges Other Members to Host Lawmakers On-Site

Having Representative Nehls visit WSOR underscores the importance of making personal connections with federal lawmakers and offering them the opportunity to learn more about Class II and III railroads through in-person visits.

There are many ways to connect with representatives in Congress, such as by participating in Railroad Day on Capitol Hill, but in-person tours allow these elected officials to see the scale of a railroad’s operations, meet with multiple railroad employees and view first-hand the ways programs like CRISI enable short lines to make crucial improvements.

ASLRRA’s government affairs team can help members connect with their representatives in Congress. Contact Zach Radford or Crystal Gitchell with questions about the process.


New Members


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.


ASLRRA Welcomes New Member Rototilt

Rototilt is an international company with a Canadian-based subsidiary. Rototilt turns an excavator into a flexible multi-tasking tool, boosting the efficiency of any type of ground shaping, excavating, drainage, and landscape contouring with minimal manual labor, perfect for maintenance of way. Rototilt offers continuous rotation in both directions and 40-degree side tilt giving you the ability to operate in extremely tight surroundings. Rototilt has the power, the capabilities, and the adaptive tools to take on almost any challenge and allows you to approach your job from any angle with the ability to get around, over or under obstacles with ease. Rail Sales Manager Shaun Davidson is our primary contact and can be reached on (519) 754-2195.

Learn more about them by visiting Booth #225 in the expo hall at our March annual conference in Kansas City.


ASLRRA 2024 Training Seminars


ASLRRA Annual Conference

New Education Session Track Expands Learning Options for Conference Attendees

ASLRRA makes education a cornerstone of its Annual Conference and Exhibition, with association staff, committee members and other volunteers dedicated to bringing the most relevant, up-to-date industry information to those who attend.

One of the newest education tracks at the 2024 conference is the procurement track organized by the Supplier Committee, which offers sessions about exploring and navigating the changing procurement landscape. Gulf & Atlantic Railways’ Todd Marklin, Iowa Interstate Railroad Company’s Chad Lambi, New York & Atlantic Railway’s James Bonner, R.J. Corman’s Ed Quillian and Watco’s Jessica Lynn and Laura McNichol will talk about short line purchasing processes and challenges and best practices for encouraging supplier diversity and purchasing ethics.

Other education sessions address topics that have been conference mainstays thanks to their popularity with participants. These include an economic update, grant information and a super session on freight car inspections, defects and Association of American Railroads (AAR) rules. Click here to view a full list of education tracks, including session descriptions and speaker information.

Click here to register for the conference before rates go up on Feb. 17. Remember to book a hotel room before room block rates expire on Feb. 27. Please use the links and phone numbers on ASLRRA’s conference hotel webpage when making hotel reservations.


Grants and Funding

Countdown to CRISI: Getting to the Grant Agreement

ASLRRA’s government affairs team expects the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to release the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Rail Improvements (CRISI) notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) sometime in March, with less than 90 days until the application due date. The Association urges its members to begin preparing their applications now.

To support their efforts, ASLRRA will explore different topics related to the grant program and the application process in a revival of its Countdown to CRISI series. This week: Reviewing Grant Terms and Conditions

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recently published three documents showing the terms and conditions that cover administration of a grant agreement and execution of a grant-funded rail project. Although this information might seem to concern a far-off process given the CRISI notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) has yet to be released and railroads are a long way from knowing whether they will be awarded an FRA grant, ASLRRA’s Richard Sherman encourages members to review the agency’s documents, especially those who have not ever received federal grant funds.

Sherman points out that “applying and getting an award announced is half the battle. The other half – for the fortunate winners – is getting to grant agreement, which is often a process that takes longer than the application, review and award period. The more you know about your grant and the process ahead of time, the more likely it will be faster and smoother.”

These documents are the exact ones an organization would see after being notified of an award of an FRA grant. The General Terms and Conditions document explains standard terms and conditions for the grant agreement, such as defining the roles of the FRA and grant recipient, outlining performance measurement and financial reporting schedules and explaining the subcontracting and sub-awarding process.

The second document comprises exhibits accompanying the grant agreement. This includes a list of applicable federal laws and regulations, labor protections information and quarterly progress report templates. These documents are not specific to the CRISI program, and any organization pursuing an FRA grant should review these resources. Little, if anything, in these documents should change in the final executed grant agreement.

The final document, Project-Specific Terms and Conditions, covers details relevant to a particular grantee and grant project. For example, the agreement requires a statement of work, an estimated project schedule, approved project budget and performance management table. It also describes other deliverables necessary to get to grant agreement and to successfully carry out, and then close out, a grant-funded project. This document is completed collaboratively between FRA and the grantee.

ASLRRA Offers Grant Assistance in Varied Forms – Including Opportunities at the ASLRRA Annual Conference



ASLRRA Seeks New Member Discount Program Preferred Providers

ASLRRA is expanding the association’s Member Discount Program (MDP) to include Preferred Providers of digital onboard system platforms, electronic recordkeeping software & services, background screening and grant writing services categories.

ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program leverages the buying power of association members to secure significant cost savings on essential business products and services; create a vetting process for potential partners and establish exceptional service expectations on behalf of association members; and generate non-dues revenue to support and enhance ASLRRA programs and services.  Member Discount Program Preferred Providers are carefully selected from ASLRRA’s vetted supplier community and ASLRRA uses a wide range of marketing/sponsorship activities to ensure broad and consistent marketing and promotion of the program to association members. 

ASLRRA is actively seeking proposals from member companies interested in participating in the program in the following categories:  digital onboard system platforms, electronic recordkeeping software and services, background screening services and grant writing services.  Please contact Sabrina Waiss to receive the latest Request for Information (RFI) for each of the categories, or to recommend and discuss a new category of products and services for consideration.

ASLRRA members may login and visit the Member Discount Program web page to learn more about the Association’s exclusive Preferred Providers of drug and alcohol programs and services (Spark TS), personal protective equipment and safety gear (Würth), and track inspection technology and services (Loram), as well as Preferred Providers of grant writing services, background screening services, and employee health insurance.


ASLRRA’s Disaster Resources Help Members Before and After Emergencies Occur

Severe weather events, natural disasters, fires and floods can all cause widespread damage to the national rail network. The potential human, community and economic impact underscores the critical need for railroads to have an emergency plan that can be activated on short notice as well as quick access to resources and emergency relief services to facilitate a return to normal operations as quickly as possible.

With support from railroad and supplier members, the ASLRRA has assembled essential templates and checklists to assist members in developing response plans that can be put in place and used as training tools before disaster strikes, as well as emergency response tools and resources to aid in the recovery process in the aftermath of a catastrophic event.

Available resources on the Association’s Disaster Preparedness page include disaster planning, hazmat response and instructions on accessing an emergency docket, in addition to links to other government websites. ASLRRA members may download materials directly from the website. Find the Disaster Preparedness page under the Safety & Compliance tab.

ASLRRA also has a robust selection of recorded webinars available for members in the On-Demand Resource Library that may be used to prepare and train for emergency situations. Topics range from Crisis Communications and Media Training to Hazardous Materials Incident Reporting and Emergency Notifications Section Review.


Complete FRA Forms to Ensure Eligibility for ASLRRA’s Jake Safety Awards

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 Federal Railroad Administration (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 FRA Form F 6180.55, the Railroad Injury and Illness Summary. Those with further questions can contact ASLRRA’s Fred Oelsner.


Register for ASLRRA’s Popular Training Seminars – and Apply for a Scholarship to Help Fund Your Attendance

Online registration is open for four of ASLRRA’s popular training seminars. Individuals are encouraged to register early, as space is limited.

ASLRRA also offers scholarships to employees of small railroads to help offset training costs. Click here for more information about scholarships.


ASLRRA Disaster Prep Resources



Upcoming Webinars

FRA's Justice40 Rail Explorer – February 22, 2024

Presented by the FRA’s Emily Grenzke and ASLRRA’s Richard Sherman and Jo Strang

In October 2023, the FRA launched its new Justice40 Rail Explorer tool, an interactive web application that combines data from the U.S. DOT Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer, the North American Rail Network (NARN), FRA's Grade Crossing Inventory, the Bureau of Indian Affairs tribal lands, and the 2020 Census. Join us for an overview and demonstration.


On-Demand Webinars

ASLRRA’s Experts Cover Important Regulatory Information in Recorded Webinars

ASLRRA’s in-house subject-matter experts have presented several webinars focused on important regulatory topics. Recordings of these webinars are available at any time to ASLRRA members through the Association’s On-Demand Webinar Library. Log in and search the regulatory category to find titles like:

  • Emergency Docket Waivers
  • FRA Penalties and Violations
  • FRA Regulatory & Program Requirements for Short Lines, Part 1
  • FRA Regulatory & Program Requirements for Short Lines, Part 2

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.


Industry News and Events

University of Wisconsin-Madison Offers Railroad Engineering Courses in March and May

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Interdisciplinary Professional Programs will offer four railroad engineering courses in March and May. Some courses take place solely online, others in-person, and others offer a choice of in-person or online instruction. Follow each of the links for specific course information and to register.

The university also offers asynchronous courses available online any time. These include Emergency Railroad Bridge Inspections and Introduction to Traction Power and OCS Systems.


July 30 to 31: FRA to Hold Rail Program Delivery Workshop in Washington, D.C.

For the first time in seven years, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will hold a Rail Program Delivery Workshop allowing participants to meet FRA staff and foster workforce development and collaboration. The meeting will provide updates on funding programs, discuss notable practices and share lessons learned for efficient delivery of FRA rail projects.

More information, including an agenda and registration link will be available in March. Click here to see the event home page on the FRA’s website.


Click here for a calendar of industry events.


ASLRRA 2024 Railroad Day Registration


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