ASLRRA serves thousands of members across North America with a staff of less than 20. The casual observer might think offering a wide range of services and resources to such a diverse group would be impossible with so few employees, but the Association is able to extend its reach exponentially with help from its vast network of volunteers. This National Volunteer Week, ASLRRA extends its deepest gratitude to all those who donate their time and talent in support of the Association’s wide-ranging efforts.
Volunteers help the Association in countless ways. At the annual convention, volunteers worked behind the scenes to ensure presentations were ready for education session speakers. They greeted attendees, helped them navigate the convention center hallways and checked them in at the registration desk. They also helped ensure the golf tournament went off without a hitch and people got to their port tour buses on time.
The Association’s volunteers comprise a group whose depth and breadth of industry knowledge and experience is unrivaled. Those who serve on ASLRRA’s 14 standing committees are instrumental in informing the Association’s educational, advocacy and communications efforts and further sharing that information to ensure ASLRRA members are aware of the Association’s work. Moreover, the Association's board of directors consists of dedicated industry leaders who devote time and attention to matters that advance ASLRRA and the overall short line industry.
ASLRRA is grateful for all its volunteers and thanks them for their dedicated service to the organization.
Working at the registration desk at ASLRRA's Annual Conference and Exhibition is just one example of the many ways ASLRRA volunteers help the Association, its staff and its members.
As mentioned in the March 29 issue of the Views & News newsletter, ASLRRA, along with Michigan Technological University and members Lake State Railway and Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad, is using grant funding from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to study short line locomotive emissions and the use of fuel additives and fuel injectors.
This week, ASLRRA plans to send its railroad members an email with a survey link, which will help the Association inventory the short line industry’s locomotive fleet. The survey is part of phase one of the project. ASLRRA encourages all recipients to aid these research efforts by completing the survey. Data collected will also be used to further the Association’s government affairs priorities in Washington, D.C.
Updating industry data resources on the locomotives used by Class II and III railroads is becoming critical to support the short line industry’s response to regulatory initiatives at the California Air Resource Board (CARB) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These agencies are currently relying on locomotive datasets that do not accurately reflect the size and variety of the Class II and III fleet and updated information is crucial for short line advocates to inform them of the full extent to which their proposed regulations will impact small-business railroads.
ASLRRA has posted the most recent hours of service waiver decision letter, dated January 2023, on its website for affected members.
Any railroad using the ASLRRA 6-1 waiver must have a copy of the most current approval letter and comply with all conditions of the waiver stated in the letter. The letter can be updated as frequently as every quarter.
Railroads needing a copy of the letter can find it on the ASLRRA website on the Safety & Compliance page in the compliance templates section, under Part 228 Hours of Service. Members must sign in to access the information.
Cuts to railroad employment and sickness insurance benefits will resume on May 10 due to the end of the COVID-19 national emergency, which was made official on April 10.
The Budget Control Act of 2011 and a subsequent sequestration order mandated a certain percentage reduction to these railroad benefits. But the Continued Assistance to Rail Workers Act of 2020 put sequestration on hold until 30 days after the end of the COVID-19 national emergency.
Starting May 10, the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) will reduce railroad unemployment and sickness insurance benefits by 5.7 percent, which was the amount when cuts were paused in January 2021. This reduction amount will stay the same through 2031.
A new Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS) For Your Information (FYI) message includes reports detailing safety concerns related to positive train control (PTC). The message conveyed information from four reports on passenger or commuter operations, describing speed-related incidents related to issues with PTC malfunctions.
C3RS is a cooperative effort between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and participating railroad carriers and labor organizations to collect and analyze reports of safety issues or close calls.
Several ASLRRA railroad members participate in C3RS, and the Association features C3RS reports on its website alongside other industry safety documents.
In the coming weeks the Senate Commerce Committee is expected to mark up – or formally debate, modify and pass – the Railway Safety Act (S.576) introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Senator J.D. Vance (R-Ohio). While there are several provisions in the bill that ASLRRA does not oppose, there are many troubling mandates with potentially severe implications for short line railroads, including requirements for wayside detectors and two-person crews, and a tenfold increase in many Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) fines.
ASLRRA staff has been working on several fronts to raise awareness of the negative consequences this bill can have on small railroad companies. In particular, the government affairs team has reached out to key congressional offices to explain how the bill ensnares Class II and III operations; engaged closely with Senate committee staff to discuss concerns about the bill; and offered suggestions as to ways the bill’s sponsors can refine, scale back and tweak the measure to limit the impact on short lines.
Hearing feedback from constituents can also influence lawmakers. ASLRRA encourages its members to reach out to their congressional delegation to talk about the ways the Railway Safety Act can harm operations and divert finite resources from proven safety efforts like upgrading old track. To help in this, ASLRRA has produced a letter, outlining the short line freight rail position on pending legislation, that members can download and share with their representatives. When passing along this letter, members should also note the specific negative repercussions their businesses stand to face if this bill is passed in its current form.
ASLRRA’s government affairs team can facilitate such congressional outreach in a number of ways, including providing resources and talking points and arranging virtual meetings. Members needing assistance can contact Zach Radford at firstname.lastname@example.org, Crystal Gitchell at email@example.com or Richard Sherman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Developed with experts on ASLRRA’s Safety and Training Committee, ASLRRA’s Drug and Alcohol Educational Materials page includes posters available for download, a Part 219 educational brochure, affidavit templates and employer review documents.
These materials are available to ASLRRA members under the Safety Training Resources section of ASLRRA’s Safety & Compliance page. 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. Other resources help railroads, contractors and employees learn more about required compliance practices and drug and alcohol testing.
The educational materials page also features links to webinar recordings discussing Part 219, which can be found in ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar library.
ASLRRA member railroads can turn tie inspections into savings and safety with Loram’s Aurora Track Inspection Technology. As an exclusive ASLRRA Preferred Provider, Loram offers discounted 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 they are in line with industry regulations with compliance reports, 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 the 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.
Today ASLRRA Assistant Vice President, Legislative and Regulatory Crystal Gitchell represented the Association as a panelist at a stakeholder roundtable hosted by the U.S. House of Representatives Supply Chain Caucus.
Gitchell provided an overview of the short line freight railroad industry and its important role in the North American supply chain. She also highlighted several industry priorities including robust funding for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grants.
ASLRRA’s subject-matter experts have presented several webinars on important industry topics. Recordings of those webinars can be found in the Regulatory category of the Association’s On-Demand Webinar Library and include titles like:
Find nearly 200 recorded webinars covering a wide range of topics 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.
There are eight spots left in the Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI) Leadership Development Training Course that will be held June 13-15 in San Antonio, Texas.
The course is meant to help railroad managers at all levels of experience improve their leadership skills through interactive sessions. Participants will come away with new and improved communication and coaching skills, the ability to deliver more effective and constructive feedback and more. Like all SLSI’s training opportunities and resources, this course is offered at no charge to railroads.
Visit the SLSI’s leadership development page here, or watch this video to learn more about the training program.
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.