Views & News - May 22, 2024

Views & News



Issue Highlights:

  • Regulatory – FRA issues dispatcher, signal employee final rule
  • Legislative – Rep. Obernolte questions EPA’s Regan on CARB waiver
  • Grants and Funding – FRA publishes project delivery map, updated calendar



Short Line Notable News

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

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.

CARB Debate Brings Forth Talk of Other Ways Railroads Work to Provide Sustainable Service

The public debate over California’s efforts to forcibly decarbonize the railroad industry through the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) In-Use Locomotive Regulation might suggest to the casual reader that the railroad industry is the primary culprit when it comes to transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions and that replacing all diesel locomotives with electric ones is the only way to solve the problem. But both those claims are untrue.

First, as ASLRRA and others have long pointed out, freight railroads are responsible for less than two percent of all transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions despite accounting for 40 percent of all long-distance freight volume. Second, railroads of all sizes are working toward more environmentally friendly practices, with adoption of different locomotive technologies only one of the ways these companies are doing so.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal examines how railroads are working to further reduce locomotive emissions through various technologies while explaining how a complete pivot to electrified locomotives is an incredibly complicated task. The article examines three alternative-power technologies for locomotives that railroads are testing: batteries, biodiesel and hydrogen fuel cells.

The range of existing battery-electric locomotives makes their use in long-haul trips difficult. But railroads are working to add them in hybrid consists to reduce overall fuel consumption, and some companies, like ASLRRA member Pacific Harbor Line, are testing battery-powered locomotives in short-range operations like in ports and rail yards. In the meantime, companies like ASLRRA supplier member Wabtec are working to improve locomotive battery capacity.

The article also examines how the rail industry is looking to biodiesels and renewable diesel fuels, with companies testing their use or using biodiesel blends in their locomotives. Other railroads, namely CPKC and CSX, are testing hydrogen fuel-cell locomotives that rely on hydrogen gas to generate the electricity that powers the engine. Although the technology is promising, there are concerns about fuel sources,  manufacturing and commercialization capacity and related infrastructure requirements.

Although the Wall Street Journal focuses primarily on the efforts of Class I railroads, short line and regional railroads also pursue environmentally friendly efforts as their resources allow. For these small railroads, investing in new technology can be difficult when everyday maintenance takes precedence in the budget. Still, ASLRRA’s members make the effort. Federal grant funding has helped some members purchase lower-emission locomotives or retrofit old ones. Members also use emissions-reducing smart technology that, among other things, helps reduce engine idling and optimize locomotive fuel performance.

And beyond this focus on locomotives, small railroads look to make operations more eco-friendly off the tracks. Converting to more energy-efficient lighting, replacing work vehicles with hybrid or electric versions and installing solar panels on office buildings are just some of the other ways ASLRRA members pursue sustainability.

ASLRRA tells the story of its members’ environmental efforts on the Association’s website. Because while current news is focused on making locomotives greener, ASLRRA recognizes its members’ efforts include locomotives but go beyond them, improving operations in a number of ways.



FRA Final Rule Requires Certification of Dispatchers and Signal Employees

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has published a final rule requiring railroads to develop certification and training programs for train dispatchers and signal employees.

According to the rule, railroads must develop and submit to the FRA certification programs for agency approval. ASLRRA staff is currently reviewing the rule and will provide additional information in the coming weeks.

ASLRRA submitted comments in Sept. 2023, both independently and in conjunction with other organizations, when the FRA was soliciting feedback on proposed versions of the rules. Use the links below to view each of the comments documents.


ASLRRA Signs Letter to Treasury Department Concerning Clean Fuel Tax Credit

ASLRRA joined a letter led by the Clean Fuels Alliance and addressed to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen calling for the U.S. Department of the Treasury to publish tax guidance concerning 26 U.S. Code Section 45Z, the Clean Fuel Production Credit.

In a press release accompanying the letter, the Clean Fuels Alliance explains that the credit incentivizes the “domestic production of low-carbon fuels on a technology-neutral basis.” The 45Z credit, which was adopted in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2025. The Clean Fuels Alliance goes on to explain that delays to the publication of 45Z guidance can disrupt projects and the flow of capital, ultimately hurting supply and demand for low-carbon renewable fuels.

In addition to ASLRRA and the Clean Fuels Alliance, 23 organizations signed the letter. These included trade associations from the fuel sector as well as agriculture and transportation groups.


RRB to Begin Sending Service and Compensation Certificates in June to Eligible Employees

The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) announced it will begin sending Form BA-6, Certificate of Service Months and Compensation, to all railroad employees with creditable railroad compensation in the previous calendar year.

Each year the RRB mails Form BA-6 in June, providing employees with records of their railroad retirement service and compensation. The RRB urges railroad employees to review the form and determine whether it agrees with their personal records of service months and creditable compensation. Those who have compensation in 2023 but do not receive a form from the RRB by July 1 are encouraged to contact their RRB field office to request a form. This form, or a replacement copy, can be requested via phone at 1-877-772-5772 or online at

The form includes other information such as months of verified military service, any deemed service months, contact information for filing a protest over incorrect totals and more.


FRA Technical Report Focuses on Wheel-Rail Friction Study

A new technical report from the Federal Railroad Administration discusses analysis of wheel-rail friction to develop models that help explain some less-studied aspects of friction as it relates to vehicle-track interactions.

According to the report, special circumstances in vehicle-track interaction, such as weather or the presence of third-body layers between the wheel and rail like sand, rust or fluids, causes variations in friction that have not been frequently studied. A lack of information on this topic “hinders the effective engineering and operation of railway systems,” which helped prompt the FRA to sponsor this study.

The research team established sub-models for friction, implementing the models in CONTACT software and subsequently implementing that software in vehicle-track interaction simulation codes. Results from this work led researchers to recommend actions for future studies to further aid understanding frictional phenomena.


ASLRRA 2024 railroad workplace safety seminar



U.S. Representative Obernolte Questions EPA Administrator Regan on CARB Waiver During Budget Hearing

During a May 15 House hearing discussing the fiscal year 2025 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget, Representative Jay Obernolte (R-Calif.) pressed EPA Administrator Michael Regan about the agency’s current consideration of a waiver request by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to implement CARB’s controversial In-Use Locomotive Regulation.

Obernolte focused his allotted five minutes of questioning on CARB’s petition to EPA during the Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, highlighting issues with the locomotive regulation and emphasizing to Regan the significant volume of correspondence from Obernolte’s constituents opposing the rule.

Regan acknowledged to Obernolte that the EPA was familiar with the issues raised by the rule’s opponents and assured Obernolte that the agency was committed to a thorough review of CARB’s request. Obernolte went on to press Regan about conflicts between the CARB rule and existing federal law and cited the letters he, his colleagues and members of the California state legislature have sent to the EPA expressing concerns about the CARB rule and urging the EPA to reject the waiver petition.

Watch Obernolte’s line of questioning at the link above, starting at 3:03:41. ASLRRA is one of the many organizations, groups and individuals that have expressed their opposition to CARB’s locomotive regulation. Click here to view the Association’s most recent comments on the matter, which are comments submitted with the California Short Line Railroad Association asking the EPA to reject CARB’s waiver.

ASLRRA, jointly with the Association of American Railroads (AAR) is suing CARB, stating the rulemaking is arbitrary and capricious, and will cause catastrophic harm to the 25 short line railroads in California.



Mark Your Calendars for ASLRRA’s Fall Regional Meetings

ASLRRA’s Regional Meetings will take place this fall. The Eastern and Southern Region Meeting will be held Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 in Jacksonville, Florida. ASLRRA will also offer its Leadership Development, Regulatory Module training seminar Oct. 1 to 2 at the same location.

The Central and Pacific Region Meeting, will take place Oct. 28 to 30 in Dallas, Texas. The General Counsel Symposium and Finance and Administration Seminar will be co-located with the Region meeting.

More information about the regional meetings, including hotel and registration details, will be shared soon. Until then, please mark your calendars for these events.




Grants and Funding

CRISI Applications Due in Four Business Days

FRA Resources Include Project Delivery Map, Updated Grants Calendar

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has published a map indicating regions and division chiefs for project delivery. The map helps grant recipients identify the individual from the FRA Office of Railroad Development who oversees project delivery for each of the six U.S. regions, the Northeast Corridor and Amtrak. Also included is contact information for the heads of the Office of Regional Outreach and Project Delivery and the Office of Amtrak and Northeast Corridor Project Delivery.

The FRA has also posted in its eLibrary the most recent version of its 2024 Discretionary Grant Calendar. Of interest to short lines, the FRA expects the Railroad Crossing Elimination (RCE) notice of funding opportunity to be released in June, with a 75-day application period. The calendar also indicates an estimated October announcement of CRISI grant recipients and December announcement of RCE grant recipients.


ASLRRA Grant Resources



ASLRRA’s Newest Preferred Provider MaxAccel Offers Suite of Electronic Recordkeeping Products

ASLRRA Member Discount Program Preferred Provider MaxAccel offers a suite of software products available in web and mobile-based solutions to assist small railroads in driving safety, regulatory compliance, operational efficiency and return on investment. 

Over 220 freight railroads, passenger operations and railroad contractors rely on MaxAccel’s electronic recordkeeping applications every day, making them some of the most widely used in the rail transportation industry.

MaxAccel’s product offerings available as part of the Member Discount Program include all eight solutions on the AssetPro and SafeTrack Platforms. ASLRRA members can choose one application or several to make MaxAccel their single solution for electronic recordkeeping. MaxAccel also provides interactive infographic analytics capabilities for easy assessment of reporting and risk management. 

To join ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program, contact ASLRRA’s Senior Vice President, Education and Business Services Sabrina Waiss.


Roadway Worker Protection Seminar Takes Place in July

To help railroads learn about and improve workplace safety, ASLRRA is offering a seminar focused on 49 CFR Part 214, which will take place July 9 to 10 in Nashville, Tennessee. A featured subject will be on-track safety program requirements.

Seminar presenters JR Gelnar of ASLRRA and 214 HQ Specialist Tim Presser of the Federal Railroad Administration will also discuss roadway maintenance machines, hi-rail vehicles and roadway worker protection. Attendees will participate in daily interactive discussions with peers and regulatory experts.

Space in this Part 214 seminar is limited, so interested individuals are encouraged to register for the event soon.

ASLRRA has three other training seminars scheduled this summer. Click the links below for more information or to register.


Out and About

Staff Shorts: Who’s Where in the Railroad World

Jo Strang and JR Gelnar were in Birmingham, Alabama this week to meet with other members of ASLRRA’s Safety and Training Committee to work on templates members can use when applying for waivers for the Federal Railroad Administration’s new crew size regulation. ASLRRA member parent company Watco hosted the meeting.


ASLRRA On Demand Webinars



On-Demand Webinars

Bolster Knowledge of Federal Grant Programs With Recorded Webinars

ASLRRA members can learn about federal funding opportunities with recorded webinars in the Association’s On-Demand Webinar Library. Available recordings include:

  • ASLRRA CRISI Grants Spotlight: Environmental Topics Discussion with FRA
  • CRISI Grants Spotlight: Locomotivation – Pursuing Funding for Motive Power Projects
  • Beyond CRISI: A Survey of Federal Grant Programs with Freight Rail Eligibility
  • USDA Financing Options for Short Line & Regional Railroads
  • CRISI: A Workforce Development Project Case Study

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 our education offerings.


Industry News and Events


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.