Views & News - June 5, 2024

Views & News


Issue Highlights:

  • Regulatory – ASLRRA makes crew size resources available to members online
  • Legislative – ASLRRA sends letters to subcommittees urging robust CRISI funding
  • Announcements – Four committees announce intent to hold individual meetings at Joint Committee Meeting in August
  • Out and About – Staff featured in railroad podcast, speak to rail program attendees, hold training in Nashville
  • Industry News and Events – Discount offered for book on the history of economic regulation’s impact on the industry



Short Line Notable News

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

40 Short Lines Contribute to Growth on NS

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.

ASLRRA Announces Survey Effort to Update Short Line Industry Factbook, Support Industry Advocacy

ASLRRA will soon launch a new survey for Class II and Class III railroad members, collecting data to generate a new Facts & Figures publication as well as assist in industry advocacy efforts.

The survey will collect information about member railroad(s) regarding their operation, infrastructure, and other associated data. While ASLRRA makes every effort to use data from external resources such as the Federal Railroad Administration or the Surface Transportation Board, sometimes the best way to gather necessary information is to work directly with Association members.

Surveys will be distributed via email. Those who receive a request to participate are asked to make every effort to ensure their railroad(s) complete the survey. Robust participation helps ensure a more complete picture of the short line industry and helps ASLRRA make compelling arguments on its members’ behalf.

Those with questions about the process, the survey itself or anything else related to this data collection effort can contact ASLRRA’s Cameron Downs or Fred Oelsner.

The latest edition of the Short Line and Regional Railroad Facts & Figures, published in 2016, is available here.


ASLRRA 2024 Eastern Southern Region Meeting Save the Date



ASLRRA Provides Members-Only Access to New Compliance Templates for FRA’s Train Crew Safety Requirements Rule

While ASLRRA remains concerned with the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) rulemaking and is engaged in litigation with FRA regarding the rule in support of its members, the train crew size rule is currently in effect, and short lines should not delay in preparing to comply.

ASLRRA staff and the Safety and Training Committee have developed resources, accepted for this use by the FRA, to assist short line railroads running, or planning to run, single person crew sizes as part of their operations. Available documents and templates include: 

  • Regulatory Program Introductory Information Checklist
  • Train Crew Size Compliance Guide
  • Conditional Excepted Operation Notification
  • Non-exempted Operation Notification
  • Special Approval Petition
  • Annual Report Template
  • Operating Rules Template

Members are advised to first review the Regulatory Program Introductory Information, which outlines details about the templates, and how to fill them in for a particular railroad.

Those with questions about the documents can contact ASLRRA Vice President, Safety and Compliance JR Gelnar or Senior Vice President, Safety, Regulatory and Environmental Policy Jo Strang.

ASLRRA thanks Strang, Gelnar and the members of the Safety and Training Committee for their efforts in making these documents available. These documents join the many other compliance templates developed by ASLRRA that are accessible only to Association members. 


STB Updates Revenue Thresholds for Railroad Classes

On May 20, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) published the annual revenue thresholds for classifying Class I and II railroads. 

Effective January 1, 2024, the classifications for Class II railroads is $47,299,851, an increase of $973,396 over 2022. Railroads remain classified as Class IIs if their operations are between the new lower threshold and the 2023 threshold for Class Is of $1,053,709,560.

Classification is important because it determines what railroads must comply with the Board’s reporting requirements. Railroads with revenues below $47,299,851 remain Class III railroads.


RRB Q&A Discusses Deemed Service Month Credits

The June installment of the Railroad Retirement Board’s Question and Answer (Q&A) series explains how railroad employees earn service month credit and how the number of deemed service months is computed.

The Q&A also explains why railroad employees might want to consider deemed service months when designating a railroad retirement annuity beginning date, as these months can be used to establish eligibility for certain annuities, increase a tier II amount or establish a current connection.


FRA Technical Reports Discuss RABIT System, Studies of Ballast Stabilization and Crosstie Measurement

One of the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) newly published technical reports discusses the second phase of a study of a portable, ground-penetrating radar system called the RAdar Ballast Inspection Tool (RABIT) that helps track inspectors assess ballast fouling and moisture conditions without incurring damage to the track.

The research project spans three years, and this report covers the project’s second year. Results of the study, which concern the second-generation RABIT prototype, show that non-invasive methods can measure moisture and fouling of track ballast. However, the report notes that research continues to analyze RABIT system performance on different track conditions and on the in-service rail network.

For more background information, a report on Phase I of the ballast analysis tool can be found here.

The FRA also published two additional technical reports:


FRA Examines Safety and Quality of Life Implications of Long Trains

With train length and the number of long trains increasing, the FRA recently finalized three reports on the safety and performance of long trains. FRA recently sent these reports to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to inform an ongoing NAS study mandated by Congress in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) to examine the impact of trains longer than 7,500 feet. The FRA reports, titled Phase IIPhase III, and Phase IV, are available online.

FRA has previously expressed growing concern related to train makeup and the complexities associated with operating longer trains. In April 2023, FRA issued a Safety Advisory to railroads and their employees following a series of derailments that were found to be caused by improper train makeup, and also issued a Safety Advisory in May 2023 on long trains in response to derailments in Springfield and Ravenna, Ohio, and Rockwell, Iowa.



ASLRRA Letters to House, Senate Leaders Call for Full CRISI Funding

ASLRRA sent letters to the respective leaders of the House and Senate Subcommittees on Transportation, Housing, Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) urging them to provide the full authorized funding of $1 billion for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program in the Fiscal Year 2025 THUD appropriations bill. The $1 billion is in addition to the advance funding made available under the IIJA for the CRISI program.

The letters describe the importance of short line railroads to the national supply chain and the benefits of the CRISI program for these railroads. The letters also ask the subcommittee leaders to ensure the structure of the CRISI program and administration of grants “remain capable of bolstering short line freight rail.” ASLRRA goes on to outline some ways lawmakers can achieve these goals, such as by encouraging flexibility in the size of awards granted and making the process as transparent as possible.

ASLRRA also asks THUD leaders to fund Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI) and Operation Lifesaver accounts at a robust level and to continue excluding language that would allow longer or heavier trucks on the nation’s roads.

Included with ASLRRA’s letters are the bipartisan letters from members of the House and Senate in support of full authorized funding for the CRISI program. A record number of lawmakers signed the letters – 140 members of the House and 31 members of the Senate.

Find a copy of ASLRRA’s letter to House THUD leaders here, and a copy of the letter to Senate THUD leaders here.


American Subcontractors Association Supports Short Line Relief Act

As hurricane and wildfire season is beginning across the country, ASLRRA continues to garner support for HR. 3782, the Short Line Relief Act which would provide government assistance in declared disaster areas to short line railroads. Today, private companies such as short line railroads, are not eligible for government funding under current programs. Recently, the American Subcontractors Association has provided a letter of support for the bill.

Learn more about this bill — and view a list of supporters — here.


Colorado Passes Rail Safety Bill

The Colorado legislature passed and the governor signed Colorado House Bill 24-1030, Railroad Safety Requirements, which deals with railroad safety in the state.

When originally introduced, the bill contained a number of items such as limiting train length to 8,500 feet, prohibiting blocked crossings for more than 10 minutes, mandating wayside detectors every 10 or 15 miles, and requiring liability insurance in an unlimited amount. However, the final bill has deleted the most onerous sections of the bill and instead referred those issues to various state agencies, a newly formed Office of Rail Safety, and two new stakeholder committees to study and report back to the governor and legislature.

The Act still contains provisions requiring railroads to move a train blocking a main line or siding if possible to allow emergency vehicles to pass; providing an extensive safety training program to employees if moving hazardous materials; and various requirements regarding incidents and accidents. The definition of main line in the Act is “a segment or route of railroads of any railroad over which five million or more gross tons of railroad traffic is transported annually,” a definition that precludes Class III railroads from the application of many of the act’s requirements because none of these small railroads’ routes in the state fit within this definition. Further, short lines can meet the training rules by adopting rules, partnering with a Class I or using the training provided by the SLSI. Class III railroads will also have representation on one of the state's new advisory committees.


ASLRRA Loram Preferred Provider



Four Committees Confirm Individual Meetings at Joint Committee Meeting

Four of ASLRRA’s standing committees have confirmed they will hold individual meetings at the Joint Committee Meeting this August. Other groups, such as the Supplier Committee, will not meet individually but will make presentations.

Associate Business Member Spark TS is hosting this event for ASLRRA’s committees, which takes place Aug. 13 to 14 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Registration is now open for the Joint Committee Meeting. The meeting is open to ASLRRA-member employees only, though they are not required to be committee members to attend.

Events will include an all-committee meeting on Aug. 13, individual committee meetings on Aug. 14 and an optional evening reception on the second night, with the opportunity to tour the James J. Hill House. Committee members who have questions about their committee’s participation should contact their respective chairpersons. General meeting questions can be directed to SparkTS’s Katie Inouye or ASLRRA’s JR GelnarClick here for more information or to register for the meeting.


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. 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.


Preferred Provider Loram Offers ASLRRA Members Cutting Edge Track Inspection Technology

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 discount 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 Association’s Member Discount Program page to view all Preferred Providers and learn how Loram’s Aurora Track Inspection Technology can make railroad operations safer and more efficient.


Out and About

Staff Shorts: Who’s Where in the Railroad World

Sarah Yurasko was the featured guest on an episode of the American Railroading Podcast. The focus of the podcast was Yurasko’s work as president of the League of Railway Women (LRW). She spoke about the organization and its work, including efforts to bolster networking, education and mentorship opportunities for its members. 

Chuck Baker and Crystal Gitchell each gave talks as part of Michigan State University’s Railway Management Certificate Program Module 2, which took place at locations in Washington, D.C. and New Jersey. Baker spoke to program participants about ASLRRA, while Gitchell focused on short line issues, truck size and modal equity.

This week, Sabrina Waiss and JR Gelnar are in Nashville, Tennessee to conduct the DSLE and Railroad Operating Rules (Part 217) training seminar. Iowa Northern Railway Company Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Vaughn joined Gelnar as a presenter at the seminar, which focuses on Designated Supervisor of Locomotive Engineer (DSLE) training, 49 CFR Part 217 and application and administration of 49 CFR Parts 240 and 242.


ASLRRA Disaster Preparedness Resources



On-Demand Webinars

Recorded Webinar Series Gives Overview of Railroad Retirement Eligibility and Benefits

Several of ASLRRA’s webinars have explored technological innovation in the railroad industry. One popular topic is the use of technology to conduct railroad inspections and maintenance. The following titles can be found in ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar Library:

  • Building a Successful Drone Program
  • Assessment of Railroad Bridges using Wireless Smart Sensors
  • Using 3D Lasers & AI Innovations in Track Inspection

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

Readers Can Get a Discount on Wilner’s Book on Railroads and Economic Regulation

Frank Wilner’s book Railroads & Economic Regulation (An Insider’s Account) is now available to interested readers at a lower price using a special discount code offered by ASLRRA.

Using the coupon code “rebwilner24” at the link above, shoppers can buy Wilner’s book for $55, roughly 20 percent off its listed price.

ASLRRA President Chuck Baker is quoted on the book’s back cover, saying, “This is a book as enjoyable as it is essential. To understand America’s economy, one needs to understand railroads, and to understand railroads, one needs to understand the story of their economic regulation.”

Behind-the-scenes events described in the book include Linda Morgan's meeting with BNSF's Rob Krebs that temporarily upended the rail industry; Mike Haverty's consequential train ride with J.B. Hunt; the questioning of Ronald Reagan's commitment to deregulation; the curious roles of a dry cleaner and taxicab operator in opening the congressional door to railroad partial deregulation and much more.

Wilner has decades of experience in the transportation sector. His previous roles include assistant vice president, policy at the Association of American Railroads and chief of staff at the Surface Transportation Board. He is the author of six books on the rail industry.


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.