Views & News - July 12, 2023

Views & News



Record Number of ASLRRA Members Honored with Jake Awards for Outstanding Safety Performance

As a testament to the oft-repeated statement that shipping by rail is “safe and getting safer,” ASLRRA announced a record 383 of its members will receive Jake Safety Awards this year, with those further qualifying for Jake Awards with Distinction setting another record.

Of the 383 Jake Award winners, 350 had zero reportable injuries in 2022, earning them the “with Distinction” designation. The number of railroads with zero reportable injuries has more than doubled since 1999 when the award was first given.

“The rail industry operates on a safety-first rule, and the Jake Awards are one measurement of the constant, daily focus the short line industry applies to operations in order to bring everyone home safely, every night,” said ASLRRA President Chuck Baker. “In 2022, the short line industry average incident rate has dropped nearly 5% to a record low 2.01 reportable incidents per 200,000 person-hours worked. In other words, the bar is higher than ever to achieve a Jake Award, yet ASLRRA members are exceeding that bar at a record rate, including more members than ever before with zero reportable incidents. Even with this best-ever performance, our industry will not rest – short lines continue to seek safety improvements with the help of the Short Line Safety Institute focused on safety culture, and with operating practices that drive improved safety performance and efficiency on our lines.”

To be honored with a Jake Award, an ASLRRA member must perform better than the industry average reportable injury frequency rate for railroads other than Class Is, commuter railroads and Amtrak as evidenced by Railroad Injury and Illness Summary Forms submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for each of the twelve months of 2022.

ASLRRA also recognizes the Jake Award recipient with the lowest reportable injury frequency rate in different categories of person-hours worked. These President’s Award winners from the Association’s Central, Eastern, Pacific and Southern regions will be recognized at ASLRRA’s regional meetings this fall.

Congratulations to all Jake Award winners. Click here to view a list of Jake Award recipients or click here to view a list of Jake Award with Distinction recipients. Congratulations also to winners of the President’s Award:

Central Region Winners

Lowest Frequency Rate per:
Watco Switching Services More than 500,000 person-hours
Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis 250,000 – 500,000 person-hours
Red River Valley & Western Railroad 150,000 – 250,000 person-hours
Kyle Railroad Company 50,000 – 150,000 person-hours
Rail Logix Ameriport Less than 50,000 person-hours

Eastern Region Winners

Lowest Frequency Rate per:
Consolidated Rail Corporation More than 500,000 person-hours
Indiana Rail Road Company 250,000 – 500,000 person-hours
Cleveland Works Railway Company 150,000 – 250,000 person-hours
New England Central Railroad 50,000 – 150,000 person-hours
South Buffalo Railway Less than 50,000 person-hours

Pacific Region Winners

Lowest Frequency Rate per:
Montana Rail Link More than 500,000 person-hours
Pacific Harbor Line 250,000 – 500,000 person-hours
Terminal Switching Services 150,000 – 250,000 person-hours
Clarkdale Arizona Central Railroad 50,000 – 150,000 person-hours
Bighorn Divide & Wyoming Railroad Less than 50,000 person-hours

Southern Region Winners

Lowest Frequency Rate per:
Conrad Yelvington Distributors More than 500,000 person-hours
Paducah & Louisville Railway 250,000 – 500,000 person-hours
Terminal Railway Alabama State Docks 150,000 – 250,000 person-hours
Aberdeen, Carolina & Western Railway 50,000 – 150,000 person-hours
Tyner Terminal Railway Company Less than 50,000 person-hours


ASLRRA also thanks this year’s Safety Award Titanium Sponsors, Genesee & Wyoming Inc. and Rio Grande Pacific Corporation and Iron Sponsors Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad and OmniTRAX.



FRA Extends Proposed Rule Comment Period for 30 Days Instead of Requested 60

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has partially accepted petitions for an extension to the comment period for its notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) concerning certification of dispatchers and signal employees.

The FRA has extended the comment period for 30 days, until August 30. The original comment period was set to close on July 31. ASLRRA had petitioned the FRA for a 60-day extension in order to collect more thorough feedback on the proposed rule, which would require railroads to develop written programs for certification of dispatchers and signal employees and submit those programs to the FRA for approval.


FRA Issues Safety Bulletin, FRA SOFA Working Group Issues Related Alert

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a safety bulletin concerning the fatality of a conductor trainee during a shove movement in a railyard.

Preliminary findings suggest that the conductor trainee was riding an empty well car during a shoving move. Although it appears he maintained three-point contact while riding, he lost his balance when the train slowed down and fell into the gauge of the rail.

While the FRA is still completing its investigation of the incident, the agency issued the bulletin to remind railroads to ensure employees understand the danger of riding moving equipment and know how to ride moving equipment safely. The bulletin includes safety recommendations for railroads, such as reviewing their training programs.

A new alert from the Switching Operations Fatality Awareness (SOFA) working group also reminds railroad employees to remain vigilant during switching operations and take precautions to ensure shove moves are conducted safely and properly. The SOFA working group released the alert due to two fatalities that happened during shoving movements, one of which was the incident described in the most recent FRA safety bulletin.


Wurth MDP



ASLRRA Letter Urges Robust Funding in House, Senate THUD Appropriations Bills

On July 6, ASLRRA sent another letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Subcommittees on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) reminding them of the need for robust funding for key programs in the fiscal year 2024 THUD appropriations bill.

The letter focuses on the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program, highlighting the importance of the program to short line railroads and strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate for robust CRISI funding.

In addition, the letter suggests ways to improve the CRISI program to ensure it is administered efficiently and effectively. These include requiring the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to publish CRISI applicant lists from recent application cycles and modify match requirements in the upcoming CRISI funding round.

ASLRRA previously sent a similar letter to House and Senate subcommittee leaders back in April encouraging consideration of short line priorities in the appropriations process.

House Releases THUD Appropriations Bill to be Marked Up Today

Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee released its fiscal year 2024 bill for the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. Committee members will mark up the bill today at 5 p.m. Eastern.

The bill offers $1.451 billion in total budgetary resources for the Federal Railroad Administration, which is $1.952 billion below the FY23 enacted level and $3.318 billion below President Biden’s budget request. The bill also provides $258.5 million for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure Safety Improvement (CRISI) program. ASLRRA’s government affairs team continues to review the bill to assess its impact on railroads.


More Bipartisan Support for Short Line Disaster Relief Bill

Another Democrat, Maryland Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, has signed on as a cosponsor of Rep. Byron Donalds’ (R-Fla.) Short Line Railroad Relief Act (H.R.3782), bringing the total number of cosponsors to 17.

ASLRRA continues to advocate for this bill, which would create a federal program that provides relief to short line railroads that have suffered catastrophic damage as the result of a natural disaster or other emergency.

Railroads affected by recent flooding in Vermont and New York, and other interested parties, can contact ASLRRA’s government affairs team to learn more about disaster relief resources and the short line bill.


Leadership Development Training


Multiple Grant Opportunities Offer Funding for Short Lines

Funding for various railroad and railroad-related projects is currently up for grabs through several federal grant and loan programs. Although short lines are not directly eligible for these programs, partnerships with eligible entities offer ASLRRA members a way to acquire necessary funding for projects that reduce harmful emissions, expand use of higher-blend biofuels and more. Remember, ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program grant writing Preferred Providers offer assistance to companies looking to submit grant applications for various opportunities.

Reduction of Truck Emissions at Port Facilities Grant Program – Deadline extended to July 26

The deadline for applications for this grant program has been extended to July 26. This new program is meant to fund projects that help reduce port-related emissions from idling trucks, which includes advancing port electrification and improving port operations efficiency. Included in the scope of eligible projects are those involving rail intermodal activities at ports.

Multimodal Project Discretionary Grant (MPDG) Program – Deadline Aug. 21

The MPDG program features a streamlined application process for three grants: the National Infrastructure Project Assistance (Mega) program, the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program and the Rural Surface Transportation Grant (Rural) program.

Total funding for all three programs is $5.5 billion, including $1.8 billion for Mega, $3.1 billion for INFRA and $675 million for Rural. While short line railroads are not directly eligible for these programs, several ASLRRA members have benefitted from grant awards, particularly through INFRA, by partnering with eligible entities like a state or local government. Click here to view the program’s notice of funding opportunity (NOFO). Applications are due Aug. 21.

Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods (RCN) Program – Deadline Sept. 28

This program works to support reconnection of communities divided by transportation infrastructure, which includes projects that work toward the removal, retrofitting, mitigation or replacement of highways, roadways, or other infrastructure facilities, including rail crossings, that create barriers to mobility, access or economic development.

Also mentioned in the funding opportunity are facilities that create noise or pollution burdens on a community. Beyond rail crossings, grade separations, yard and line relocations or reconfigurations all could be potential projects. Funding can go to planning or construction activities. Applications are due Sept. 28.

RRIF Express Pilot Program – Deadline varies

This Build America Bureau program, for which ASLRRA provided input, allows fo expedited, low-cost loans for short line and regional railroads. The program’s notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) expands the ability of eligible borrowers to access funds, provides greater flexibility and makes other clarifications. Letters of interest from prospective borrowers are accepted on a rolling basis until available funding is used or another notice is issued that supersedes the current notice.

Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP) – Deadline varies

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) for future funding awards through the HBIIP. The purpose of the HBIIP is to significantly increase the sales and use of higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel by expanding the infrastructure for renewable fuels derived from U.S. agricultural products, an industry that is particularly reliant upon short lines for service. Applications will be due on the last day of each quarter at 4:30 p.m. Eastern, with $90 million expected to be available each time.


Letter to Members of Congress Encourages Support for REEF Act

ASLRRA joined the Association of American Railroads (AAR), the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO in letters to members of the House and Senate encouraging them to support the Railroad Employee Equity and Fairness Act (REEF Act).

The bill, H.R. 2785 in the House and S. 1274 in the Senate, would eliminate cuts to railroad unemployment and sickness benefits. Budget sequestration in the Budget Control Act of 2011 mandated 5.7 percent cuts to railroad benefits through fiscal year 2030. These cuts were paused during the COVID-19 national emergency, but resumed in May 2023 after the emergency ended.

The letters note that Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) benefits are the only federal  unemployment insurance and sickness benefits program subject to sequestration and that the railroad insurance system is funded entirely by the railroad industry, without a burden to taxpayers. The letter subsequently urges members of Congress to act quickly to pass the REEF Act.



ASLRRA Leadership Training Held at Regional Meeting with Scholarships Available to Help Cover Costs

ASLRRA will offer its Leadership Development Training – Regulatory Module at the same location as the Association’s Central and Pacific Region Meeting. The leadership training will take place Sept. 26 to 27 in Long Beach, California, overlapping with the regional meeting.

ASLRRA’s leadership development seminar covers a broad selection of topics, including an overview of the federal agencies that regulate railroads and a discussion of federal legislation and leadership qualities for managers. The course will also discuss the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 217, Part 218, Part 219, Part 225, Part 228, and Part 243.

ASLRRA offers scholarships of up to $1,200 to help employees of small railroads offset registration fees and costs for travel and lodging. Click here to learn more about the scholarship program, or here to apply for a scholarship. Applications are accepted and processed on a rolling basis.


Würth MSM Offers PPE Products and Services to ASLRRA Members at Preferred Pricing

The Würth MRO, Safety, and Metalworking (MSM) Division, an ASLRRA Member Discount Program Preferred Provider, provides Association members with important personal protective equipment (PPE) and related services.

The Würth MSM Division is a market leader in technology-driven safety and maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) programs.  Würth’s team of railroad specialists currently supports 196 short line railroads, rail industry contractors and six Class 1 railroad companies.

ASLRRA members benefit from exceptional, personalized service and discounted pricing on a huge assortment of products and equipment needed to implement an effective and efficient safety program. Offerings include foot and leg protection, signs, ergonomic products, hearing protection, clothing protection, eye protection, lighting and electrical products, hand protection, respiratory protection, storage containment and environmental spill cleanup, traffic control, head protection and much more.

Log in to the Würth MSM page on ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program website to view the online e-catalog and start saving today!


ASLRRA Members Have Access to Downloadable Drug and Alcohol Education Materials

To bolster regulatory knowledge and aid compliance, ASLRRA members can view and download drug and alcohol educational materials such as posters, a Part 219 educational brochure, affidavit templates and employer review documents from the Association website. These resources were designed in consultation with subject matter experts on ASLRRA’s Safety and Training Committee.

The members-only educational materials webpage also features links to webinar recordings discussing Part 219, including “Part 219 Education Materials and Correction Affidavits,” “Overview on the Expanded Scope of Part 219,” and “Drug & Alcohol Rules & Regulations” all available free to members in ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar library.




ASLRRA’s Joint Committee Meeting Less Than Six Weeks Away – Register Today

Interested participants can still register for the Joint Committee Meeting in Anchorage, Alaska on August 21 to 23. ASLRRA members who are not a part of committees but are interested in learning more about how they work and potentially joining one are welcome to attend. Follow this link to learn more or register.

The meeting offers Association members, particularly those who serve on ASLRRA committees, an opportunity to gather and discuss issues impacting the short line and regional railroad industry across a number of key topic areas.


Networking Opportunities Abound at ASLRRA’s Regional Meetings

Like at ASLRRA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition, the Association’s regional meetings offer networking opportunities that allow attendees to connect with industry colleagues representing railroads, suppliers and other stakeholders.

The Association’s Young Professionals Committee will have social hour gatherings at both region meetings, which will also feature an opening reception and multiple networking breaks. Early bird pricing is still available for all fall events.

The Central and Pacific Region Meeting will be held Sept. 26 to 28 in Long Beach, California, while the Eastern and Southern Region Meeting will take place Nov. 7 to 9 in Lexington, Kentucky. The Association will also host its Finance and Administration Seminar and General Counsel Symposium in conjunction with the Eastern and Southern Region Meeting in Kentucky.

The Association continues to welcome sponsors for all fall events. Companies looking to sponsor ASLRRA’s regional meetings should contact ASLRRA’s Vice President, Meetings Amy Westerman.


Drug and Alcohol Educational Materials


out and about

Baker and Radford Speak at ARDA Annual Meeting

Yesterday, ASLRRA President Chuck Baker and Vice President, Congressional Affairs Zach Radford participated in the 2023 American Railway Development Association (ARDA) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Radford spoke during an economic development segment, offering a talk titled “How Rail’s Economic Importance and Safety Story are Viewed by Policymakers.” Following Radford, Baker gave the Tuesday lunch keynote presentation. He provided a general overview of the short line industry and its current state of affairs.



Upcoming Webinars

Rail Maintenance for Optimized Rail Life – October 11, 2023

In this webinar, Loram Technologies Data Sciences Manager Brian Barthel and Quality and Production Manager Mitchell Christensen will focus on maintenance planning and practices designed to help optimize the life of your rail. Topics discussed include variables that cause premature rail replacement and rail grinding best practices to extend the life of rail.

Sponsored by Loram Technologies.


ASLRRA’s Recorded Webinars Feature a Series on Part 243 Compliance

Subject-matter experts from Rio Grande Pacific Corporation, Spark TS and ASLRRA presented a three-part webinar series focused on Part 243 compliance. Look for the following titles in ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar Library:

  • Part 243: Part 1 - Initial Training Requirements
  • Part 243: Part 2 - Requirements for Compliance
  • Part 243: Part 3 - Discussion and Q&A

Find these and nearly 200 other recorded webinars covering a wide range of topics from regulatory compliance to environmental programs to the grant-application process in ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar 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 our education offerings.


Industry Events

AAR Files Suit Against Ohio Over Two-Person Crew Requirement

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has sued the state of Ohio over a provision in the state’s transportation budget bill that mandates two-person train crews. AAR filed the suit in the U.S. district Court for the Southern District of Ohio on June 30.

Among other arguments, the suit identifies federal laws AAR argues prohibit Ohio from enacting crew size mandates and highlights decisions by Congress and federal regulatory agencies to allow railroads to set minimum crew sizes through collective bargaining. The AAR is seeking to have Ohio’s law declared preempted by federal legislation and wants an injunction to prevent Ohio from enforcing the crew size law.



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.