Views & News - May 8, 2024

Views & News

Issue Highlights:

  • Regulatory – FRA publishes crew size rule compliance guide
  • Legislative – View pictures from today’s Railroad Day on Capitol Hill
  • Announcements – ASLRRA celebrates retiring FRA Specialist Sam Noe, holds first DER roundtable
  • Industry News & Events – MxV Rail, SLSI to host events in June, August



Short Line Notable News

In this section, we showcase short line industry stories published in local media. 


IAIS to serve renewable energy site in Newton

Gulf & Atlantic Railways changes name to Pinsly Railroad Company


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.

Railroad Day on Capitol Hill is Today

More than 300 participants from Class I and short line freight railroads, along with representatives from industry suppliers and supporting associations, will visit more than 270 bipartisan offices today for Railroad Day on Capitol Hill.

Railroad Day is the freight rail industry’s opportunity to exercise their first amendment rights, bringing attention to transportation priorities – both nationally and locally - in the 118th Congress. This year, participants will be talking to members about freight rail safety, the success of the investments made possible by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the environmental benefits of moving goods by rail, raising concerns about misguided regulations like the California Air Resources Board’s in-use locomotive regulation and urging caution when considering increases to truck size and weight. 

Railroaders are meeting with offices representing Senate leaders Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Senators John Thune (R-S.D.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), as well as House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (R-N.Y.), Chairman of the Transportation Committee Sam Graves (R-Mo.), and Ranking Member Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), and hundreds of others who represent key stakeholders in the railroad industry.

In addition to participating in in-person meetings, ASLRRA and its Railroad Day partner associations will be extending the Railroad Day message online, engaging with lawmakers, rail stakeholders and the public through their respective social media profiles.

Though most of the day’s meetings are already over, ASLRRA encourages its members to continue to amplify the railroad industry message online by liking and sharing Railroad Day posts from ASLRRA and its partner organizations. Those who participated in meetings are also encouraged to share their experiences and post pictures, being sure to incorporate hashtags like #RailDay2024, #FreightRail and #FreightRailWorks and tagging relevant lawmakers and ASLRRA using @ASLRRA.

ASLRRA thanks its partner organizations the Association of American Railroads (AAR), GoRail, the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC), the Railway Engineering-Maintenance Suppliers Association (REMSA), Railway Systems Suppliers, Inc. (RSSI), the Railway Tie Association (RTA) and the Railway Supply Institute (RSI) for their support of Railroad Day. The Association is also grateful for the generous support of Railroad Day sponsors and the participation of railroad industry professionals, lawmakers and congressional offices.



ASLRRA staff members Amy Krouse and Crystal Gitchell helped distribute schedules and other materials to Railroad Day on Capitol Hill participants during breakfast and materials pickup at the Monocle Restaurant.

View more pictures from Railroad Day in our Legislative section below.





ASLRRA 2024 locomotive and car compliance seminar



Compliance Guide From FRA Meant to Help Organizations Comply with Crew Size Rule

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has published a compliance guide for its recently published train crew size final rule. Titled “Compliance Guide for Train Crew Size Safety Requirements 49 CFR part 218, subpart G,” the FRA notes it has published the guide to “assist organizations in complying with the rule, especially small businesses.”

The guide provides an overview of the rule requirements, answers questions about the rule and includes several attachments including:

  • A Written Notice Work Sheet for Two Types of Excepted One-Person Train Crew Operations
  • A Written Notice Work Sheet for Special Approval to Continue an Established One-Person Train Crew Operation That Does Not Meet an Exception
  • A Special Approval Petition Work Sheet for Train Operations Staffed with a One-Person Train Crew
  • An Annual Report Work Sheet for a One-Person Train Crew Operation
  • An Appendix E To part 218—Recommended Procedures for Conducting Risk Assessments


RRB Q&A Explains Annuities Payable to Railroad Retirement Spouses

The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) published the May edition of its monthly question and answer (Q&A) series. This month’s Q&A discusses annuities for railroad retirement spouses.

Similar to the Social Security Act, the Railroad Retirement Act provides for payment of annuities to spouses of retired railroad employees, which can include divorced spouses. The information covered in the May Q&A includes age and general eligibility requirements for a spouse annuity, how annuities are computed and whether spouses can receive annuities if also eligible for their own non-railroad retirement benefits.

Also addressed are topics like annuity awards to a divorced spouse, whether an annuity can be subject to legal garnishment and how the spouse annuity rate is affected if the married couple were both railroad employees.


Two-Part FRA Technical Report Describes Researchers’ Study of Tank Car Vent and Burn Process

The Federal Railroad Administration has published two technical reports describing phases one and two of a study into the tank car vent and burn process. The study was meant to examine venting and burning as a method of hazardous materials (hazmat) incident mitigation.

Phase I of the study worked to “develop guidelines and tools to aid emergency response personnel in determining when to use the vent and burn method and to help guide them through the procedure.” To do this, researchers studied data from past hazmat incidents and analyzed them using mathematical models. Researchers also evaluated various tank car commodities and materials to determine the extent to which the vent and burn method was applicable.

The study resulted in a process map and checklist for responders to use, and concluded that vent and burn is an effective method if carefully planned for and properly applied. Researchers made recommendations for future testing, which was conducted in Phase II.

Phase II of the study expanded on Phase I recommendations, developing a more comprehensive set of hazmat response guidelines and creating an electronic database of important hazmat material information in a format that can be used on personal electronic devices. Also developed were a standardized comprehensive incident response form and reporting procedure and computer models of explosive charge parameters.


CISA Extends Comment Period for Proposed Rule on Reporting Requirements

The comment period has been extended by 30 days for a proposed rule from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) concerning Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act (CIRCIA) reporting requirements.

ASLRRA had joined with a cybersecurity coalition through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to ask for an extension of the comment period. The Association plans to work with other industry stakeholders to comment on the proposed rule. Comments are now due July 3.

The rulemaking proposes to require all short line railroads, along with many other critical infrastructure entities, to report cyber and ransomware incidents to CISA. Under CIRCIA, CISA is required to develop rules to implement the act’s reporting requirements for covered entities, which includes freight railroad carriers.


Interested Individuals Encouraged to Participate in FWHA Land Use Handbook Peer Exchange

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is seeking stakeholder feedback on updates to the Freight and Land Use Handbook through a virtual peer exchange held on June 5. ASLRRA member railroads interested in participating in the meeting and providing feedback are encouraged to do so.

The online meeting offers participants a chance to discuss freight transportation and land-use planning, with the goal to ensure an updated handbook addresses recent supply chain trends and other issues. Those interested in participating can contact ASLRRA’s Amy Krouse at

The Freight and Land Use Handbook, which was last updated in 2012, provides information and best practices for development of land-based facilities for freight mobility that maximize economic impact and community benefit while minimizing truck traffic and negative community impact.

In 2023, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended the FWHA update the handbook to reflect emerging markets, like e-commerce, and publicize the updated handbook to freight stakeholders.


EPA, Army, Corps of Engineers Issue Updated Joint Coordination Memoranda

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of the Army and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) have issued updated joint coordination memoranda providing information on the coordination process between agencies on Waters of the United States jurisdictional determination (JD) documents.

Approved JDs are written statements identifying the presence or absence of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) on a parcel of land. The memoranda explain the process by which the Department of the Army, the Corps and the EPA coordinate on geographic jurisdictional matters to draft and approve a JD.

The memoranda includes two separate documents for two groups, the states and parties in and for which the final “Revised Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’” rule is in effect, and those for which the rule is not in effect due to litigation. For both groups, the EPA and the other agencies are defining WOTUS consistent with the Supreme Court ruling in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency.

In the Sackett decision, the court decided that in order for wetlands to be protected under the Clean Water Act there must be a “continuous surface connection” to a WOTUS.  While the final rule does not explicitly state that railroad ditches are excluded from its definition, EPA states that many of those types of ditches are excluded under the “continuous surface connection” definition. View a website dedicated to WOTUS information here.



Photos From Railroad Day on Capitol Hill 2024

Click on the image to enlarge.


Representative Norma Torres (D-Calif.) (center)
Representative Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) (second from left)


Representative Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.) (left)
Representative Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) (front row, center)


Representative Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) (second from right)
Outside the office of Representative Robin Kelly (D-Ill.)




Grants and Funding

FRA Publishes Sample Template for RCE Grant Program Statement of Work

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has published a project planning statement of work template sample for its Railroad Crossing Elimination (RCE) Grant Program. The template can help grant applicants and recipients understand what information should be included in their statement of work (SOW) and how the document should be formatted.

The SOW tells what work will be completed under the grant agreement, and the FRA expects grant applicants to submit a SOW with their grant application packet. The FRA further advises applicants to maintain the format and structure of the SOW template to improve the quality of the grant application.

If a project is named a grant recipient, the SOW is finalized and included in the grant agreement as the guide for project execution and grant management during project delivery. Completing the SOW is a critical part of the grant award process.

According to the FRA’s 2024 Discretionary Grant Calendar, the next notice of funding opportunity for Railroad Crossing Elimination grants is expected in late May. Though updated resources are not yet available for interested applicants, the FRA still has RCE application resources on its webinar page. Find a recording of the FRA’s webinar discussing RCE SOW best practices here, or view that webinar’s presentation materials here.


ASLRRA Grant Resources



ASLRRA Drug and Alcohol Training Seminar Included First-Ever Roundtable and Farewell to FRA’s Noe

Nearly 100 short line railroaders gathered in New Orleans at the end of April for ASLRRA’s Part 219 Drug & Alcohol training seminar and first-ever Short Line Designated Employee Representative (DER) Roundtable event. The seminar was the final official training led by Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Drug and Alcohol Program Specialist Sam Noe who will be retiring at the end of the year. 

Noe was joined by FRA Drug and Alcohol Program Specialist Melissa Van Dermeir and ASLRRA Vice President of Safety & Compliance JR Gelnar to discuss Part 219 regulatory requirements and best practices. Noe has served as an FRA drug and alcohol program specialist for decades and has provided official training and one-on-one guidance to hundreds of railroaders during his tenure. He will be greatly missed. Sam’s colleague Van Dermeir, who has attended ASLRRA drug and alcohol training seminars for the past two years, will be stepping in to deliver future training and guidance to railroads on the Part 219 regulation. 

After completing two days of drug and alcohol regulatory training, nearly 50 DERs stayed on to participate in ASLRRA’s Short Line DER Roundtable. Spark TS’s Vice President of Drug and Alcohol Programs Holly Rainwater led the roundtable, focusing on a range of topics from developments in oral fluid testing, current trends, record keeping and more. 

Fletcher & Sippel Attorney Colleen Helenhouse delivered a detailed presentation on marijuana testing case law developments at the federal and state level, and the day concluded with a DER panel facilitated by Rainwater.  Panelists included Iowa Interstate Railroad Director of Human Resources Bobbi Allen, Rio Grande Pacific Corporation Vice President Safety and Compliance Mitch Harris, Indiana Rail Road Company Vice President, Human Resources and Regulatory Compliance Shae LeDune, Genesee & Wyoming Railroad Services Director of Compliance Ashley Riley and ASLRRA’s Gelnar. 

The FRA’s Sam Noe participated in his final ASLRRA drug and alcohol training seminar. ASLRRA staff and seminar participants took the opportunity to honor Noe for his many years of service with the FRA and for his work with the Association.
The day after the drug and alcohol training seminar, the Association held its first DER roundtable event moderated by Holly Rainwater (far left) and featuring a panel discussion with ASLRRA-member executives (L to R) Ashley Riley, Shae LeDune, Bobbi Allen and Mitch Harris.


ASLRRA Members Benefit from Coalition Health Plan with HUB International

The Coalition Heath Plan is specifically designed for ASLRRA members looking for a solution to reduce their medical premiums and simplify the healthcare experience for their employees. As the fifth largest broker in the world with over 500 locations in North America, HUB International is well equipped to provide ASLRRA members with a vast network of benefits experts and best-in-class resources no matter where the member company is located in the US. 

Partnering with HUB puts ASLRRA members at the center of a vast network of experts who provide risk services, claims management, and compliance support. Visit ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program page and select Employee Health Insurance to start saving today.


FRA Experts Review CFR Parts 215, 229 and 231 Through Mechanical Employee’s Perspective at ASLRRA June Seminar

From June 25 to 27, ASLRRA and Iowa Northern Railway Company, in partnership with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), are hosting an FRA Locomotive and Car Compliance Training Seminar for short line railroads. Intended for short line railroad chief mechanical officers, shop foremen and inspectors, this three-day training seminar covers compliance requirements of locomotives and railcars.

FRA subject-matter experts Patrick Merritt and Stephen Strong, along with ASLRRA’s JR Gelnar and Iowa Northern Railway’s Mark Vaughn will review CFR Parts 215, 229 and 231 from a mechanical employee’s perspective and discuss common defects found throughout the industry and recommended actions for compliance.

ASLRRA also continues to welcome registrations for its training seminars in July and August. They are:

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


Out and About

ASLRRA, SLSI Staff Tour Norfolk Southern Safety Train

On May 2, Chuck Baker and Jo Strang, along with the Short Line Safety Institute’s Tom Murta and Ryan Risdon, toured a Norfolk Southern Safety Train during a Railroad 101 training session in Alexandria, Virginia.

Norfolk Southern, through its Operation Awareness & Response (OAR) program, hosted the free training with community outreach organization Transportation Community Awareness Emergency Response (TRANSCAER). The training taught local emergency responders about general railroad safety, rail shipping documents, railroad emergency procedures, tank car identification and more.

(L to R) Tom Murta, Chuck Baker, Jo Strang and Ryan Risdon take a picture in front of a tank car that is part of Norfolk Southern’s Safety Train, which the group toured recently.
First responders participate in a Railroad 101 training course held on Norfolk Southern’s Safety Train.


ASLRRA’s Position on CARB Locomotive Rule Included in Articles Discussing the Regulation

Two publications have included ASLRRA’s perspective on the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) in-use locomotive regulation, with Chuck Baker quoted in one of the two articles.

An article on the Daily Caller website, which quotes Baker, gives an overview of the locomotive rule and describes wide-ranging opposition to CARB’s request for a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enact and enforce the regulation.

“While the spirit behind this rule is consistent with short lines’ environmental commitment, the rule itself is impractical, unworkable, and simply not feasible for most short lines,” said Baker in the article.

California news publication California Globe also featured information from ASLRRA in its article on the EPA’s pending authorization of a waiver for CARB’s rule. The article honed in on ASLRRA’s comments about the effects of the rule on short line railroads in California and the limited technology and availability of zero-emissions locomotives CARB is attempting to mandate.


ASLRRA On Demand Webinars



Upcoming Webinars

May 13, 2024 – FRA Accident/Incident Reporting: Special Study Block

As of last December, carriers are to discontinue collecting data on crude oil and continuous welded rail and begin collecting Train Length (SSB 1) and Number of Crew in the Cab (SSB2). FRA has corrected an erroneous instruction that still referred to crude oil and has been communicating through their Safety Management Teams and through their contractor to coach railroads on the changes. They are seeing improvement in the reporting but are asking carriers to go back through earlier reports to make any corrections. Carriers have had some questions about the fields such as what types of movements are to be reported and how RCL are handled. These questions will be addressed in this webinar.

Presented by: Andy Martin, Program Analyst, FRA; Rob Siegfried, Program Analyst, FRA; Stuart Gluck, Ph.D. Director, Office of Industry Data and Economic Analysis, FRA


On-Demand Webinars

Recorded Webinars Discuss Identifying, Addressing Railcar Issues

Railinc’s Robin McFalls presented several webinars focused on railcar alerts, early warnings and related maintenance issues. Recordings of these webinars can be found in ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar Library in the Operations and Safety Category. Look for the following titles:

  • Common CRB Data Exchange Errors and How to Avoid Them
  • Identifying Car Health Alerts and Needed Action
  • Alerts, Early Warnings and Maintenance Advisories
  • Repair Reporting for Cars with Alerts and Early Warnings

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 our education offerings.


Industry News and Events

June 3-6: MxV Rail to Host Damage Prevention and Freight Claim Conference

This year’s Damage Prevention and Freight Claim Conference, hosted by MxV Rail, will take place June 3 to 6 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Some of the scheduled presentations include paper industry and railcar equipment updates, discussions of photo technology use and rail equipment capacity and a session titled “Short Line Carriers and Their Role in Freight Damage Prevention.”

Use the link above to access relevant information including an agenda, description of conference events, the registration form and hotel details.


August 6-8: SLSI Offers Second Leading Forward Class for Women in Rail

The Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI) will again present its Leading Forward – Skills Development for Railroad Professionals training seminar to women in the rail industry. The seminar will take place August 6 to 8 in Denver, Colorado. The class is offered at no cost to railroad employees.

The Leading Forward program is designed for up-and-coming and experienced railroad managers and anyone in between who is interested in improving their leadership skills. Understanding the added importance of gender diversity in the rail industry and the need to transform the industry’s management pool to include greater female representation, SLSI expanded on their successful Leading Forward class and developed a course specifically designed for women in railroading.

The goal of this new course is to equip women railroaders with the skills, abilities, and support to become leaders. This class provides a space for railway women to network, form new connections, share experiences, and collaborate.

Click here to register for the event. Participation is limited to 20 individuals, so those who are interested in attending are encouraged to register soon. Those needing accommodations for the seminar can book a hotel room at the Embassy Suites Denver Downtown at a discounted rate. The special rate expires on July 5.


Nominations Due Tomorrow for Railway Track and Structures Magazine Award

The nomination period closes tomorrow for the annual Top Project Honors award competition held by RT&S magazine.

The Top Project Honors recognizes railroad projects like bridge replacement, maintenance, tie replacement, new construction and more. Projects in the U.S., Canada or Mexico that have been in the design, construction or completion phase over the past 18 months are eligible. Click here for more information, or click here to complete an online nomination form.


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.