Headlines – ASLRRA files waiver request concerning Risk Reduction Program rules
Regulatory – FAMES Committee issues multiple safety documents
Legislative – FRA submits its automated track inspection report to Congress
Announcements – ASLRRA Member Discount Program Preferred Providers sought in multiple areas of expertise
Out and About – Chuck Baker discusses SLSI in Railway Age commentary
Industry Events – Few spots remain in SLSI Leading Forward classes
There are 14 standing committees that guide the work of the Association. With several committees gathering at the Joint Committee Meeting in Alaska this month and the regional meetings in the fall, we are telling readers about the many contributions of these groups to ASLRRA.
ASLRRA’s Legislative Policy Committee (LPC) consists of approximately 40 short line railroads and several suppliers with a strong interest in advocating on Capitol Hill for policy positions critical to the short line freight rail industry.
LPC membership is subject to an additional dues structure. Much of the committee’s work over the past year has been dedicated to the following issues:
The LPC also takes a pivotal role in ensuring the success of the industry’s Short Line Railroad Advocacy Day, which was held for the first time in May 2023. Members meet two to three times a year in person and virtually as issues demand. This year, the LPC will meet in-person at the Eastern and Southern Region Meeting in Lexington, Kentucky. Those interested in learning more about the committee can contact ASLRRA staff liaison Zach Radford.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) for Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grants, which will be due Dec. 1. The EPA expects to award approximately $115 million under this NOFO.
The goal of the DERA program is to help hasten the upgrading or retirement of the nation’s legacy diesel engine fleet. According to the DERA NOFO, eligible projects include the “retrofit or replacement of existing diesel engines, vehicles, and equipment with EPA and California Air Resources Board (CARB) certified engine configurations and verified retrofit and idle reduction technologies.”
Many types of locomotive-related projects are eligible for DERA grants. ASLRRA’s government affairs team has looked at the DERA program and determined that, since 2008, roughly $94 million has gone to projects with a locomotive element.
Short lines in California facing the unfunded mandate of the new CARB In-Use Locomotive Regulation may have a particular interest in evaluating DERA funds this cycle. Some DERA awards in California with locomotive elements have included replacing a Tier 0+ diesel engine on a switch locomotive with battery-electric technology, replacing switcher locomotives with Tier 4 locomotives and repowering line-haul and switch-yard locomotives.
Click here to learn more about the DERA program. The DERA home page includes information about webinar sessions meant to help prospective applicants, including one session scheduled for Aug. 22.
ASLRRA has submitted a waiver request to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) concerning certain provisions in the agency’s Risk Reduction Program rule, specifically those related to determination of inadequate safety performance.
The Association expressed concerns with the inclusion of on-duty fatalities and injuries that are not linked to the operation of the railroad in the FRA’s quantitative calculation of inadequate safety performance. Examples may include medical issues resulting in injury or death while on the job. In addition, ASLRRA has requested that those railroads receiving a notification of a qualitative assessment being conducted to voluntarily comply with the rule, rather than receiving an ‘inadequate safety performance’ designation, submitting an RRP plan within 120 days, and comply with Part 271 for five years.
Following the five-year period, railroads could petition FRA to be released from compliance with the rule. This is a safety benefit, as a plan will be in place far faster than after a full determination evaluation, and the 180-day period for submitting an RRP plan if a railroad would be able to voluntarily comply with the rule.
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has opened a second comment period on additional proposed modifications and documents for the agency’s In-Use Locomotive Regulation. The comment period closes Aug. 23.
The rule still does not exempt short line railroads, but delays the regulation’s implementation date until Jan. 1, 2026 in an effort to allow locomotive operators to take advantage of funding opportunities that can be applied toward locomotive emission reduction projects.
ASLRRA staff is reviewing the revised rule for its impact on short line railroads. The Association joined the Association of American Railroads (AAR) in filing a suit against the rule on June 16, arguing CARB does not have legal authority to require railroads operating in California to, among other things, replace their locomotive fleet with zero-emissions locomotives that are not commercially available on the market today.
The Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Fatality Analysis of Maintenance-of-Way Employees and Signalmen (FAMES) Committee has issued three publications related to safety issues. FAMES publications are also available on ASLRRA’s website.
A FAMES Safety Alert notes that eight fatalities have involved inaccessible track protection. Therefore the committee offers several recommendations to help prevent such incidents, including that workers conduct a thorough on-track safety briefing, install portable derails according to manufacturer and railroad instructions, never use a trailing point switch for protection and more.
The committee has again updated and reissued a report discussing the importance of on-track safety briefings and how they are critical to the prevention of roadway worker fatalities. According to analysis by the FAMES committee, an insufficient or nonexistent on-track safety briefing or re-briefing was a possible contributing factor in 38 percent of all fatalities studied.
The report, which has been released twice before in 2012 and 2016, explains the characteristics of an ideal initial briefing and re-briefing and provides recommendations for conducting effective briefings.
This alert concerns a recent fatality in which a roadway maintenance machine struck and seriously injured a roadway worker who succumbed to his injuries after being transported to a local hospital. While the accident is still under investigation, the FAMES committee issued the alert to remind roadway workers to take adequate safety precautions, especially when any object or person is in a position to be struck by a moving train or on-track equipment. Other recommendations include encouraging workers to initiate good-faith challenges if they feel it is necessary and reminding watchmen/lookouts of their roles and responsibilities on the job.
A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) discusses the derailment of 19 loaded gondola cars, part of a Norfolk Southern coal train, near Elliston, Virginia on July 6.
The derailment occurred after the train crew received a critical alarm message from a wayside hot-bearing detector. The crew conferred with the train dispatcher who instructed them to move the train about 13 miles to a siding for further inspection. The cars derailed as the train was moving to that location. There were no injuries, fatalities, fires or release of coal. The cars remained upright and did not separate from the train’s other railcars.
The NTSB’s investigation is ongoing and will focus on elements including Norfolk Southern’s use of hot-bearing detectors and the railroad’s operating rules for defective equipment detectors.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has launched the Project Delivery Center of Excellence to help recipients of federal infrastructure funds deliver projects more efficiently and effectively. The Project Delivery Center is intended to serve as a central resource for innovative practices and to bring project managers together to enable knowledge sharing and peer-to-peer learning.
The USDOT’s Volpe Center, the agency’s internal fee-for-service research center established in 1970, will administer the Project Delivery Center of Excellence. USDOT hopes that the new Center of Excellence will help facilitate the timely and effective deployment of the significant amount of transportation funding emerging from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
The Project Delivery Center’s website includes a Project Delivery Toolbox with resources and best practices to help grantees successfully implement their projects. The toolbox is organized by topics such as project management, environmental and risk management and provides links to resources from the different USDOT agencies, including the Federal Railroad Administration.
A report from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) provides a breakdown of all the applications for fiscal year 2022 Railroad Crossing Elimination (RCE) grants. According to the law establishing the grant program, the FRA must publish a list of eligible and ineligible applicants and all grant recipients no later than 60 days after the awards are announced.
The report comprises tables of selected and not-selected applications, as well as a table of not-eligible submissions. Each table identifies applicants and project titles and is organized by state.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has published results of tests on crash energy management (CEM) components in locomotive vehicle-to-vehicle collisions. The tests specifically looked at two components retrofitted onto a conventional passenger locomotive: a push-back coupler and a deformable anti-climber.
The FRA wanted to evaluate CEM components integrated into the end structure of a locomotive in scenarios where a moving CEM locomotive collided with a stationary vehicle or consist. According to the report, the tests were successful and met all key objectives, showing that the components of the CEM system were effective in absorbing impact energy and preventing the colliding vehicles from overriding each other or derailing.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has submitted to Congress a report concerning automated track inspection technologies, which was required of the FRA under the 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act.
The FRA’s report, sent to leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, evaluates the performance of automated track inspection technology and works to determine whether additional data is needed. The FRA focused in particular on whether this automated technology can detect all defects identified in 49 CFR 213 track safety standards.
Report recommendations suggest railroads should continue to utilize visual inspections while developing and testing new inspection technology. No combination of existing track inspection technologies can detect all defects outlined in federal regulations, making visual inspections necessary.
With Congress in recess, ASLRRA’s government affairs team will have more time to speak in-depth with staff members about the short line industry’s key priorities, such as maintaining current truck size and weight and disaster relief.
Additionally, with lawmakers back in their home states, the break offers opportunities for ASLRRA members to invite their Congressional representatives to visit their facilities and learn about short line operations in their districts.
ASLRRA staff can help members connect with their representatives and organize these visits, which are an important way to build relationships with lawmakers and help them know more about how their actions on Capitol Hill affect businesses in their districts. Contact ASLRRA Assistant Vice President, Legislative and Regulatory Crystal Gitchell with questions or for assistance in scheduling a meeting.
ASLRRA is gathering feedback on its weekly Views & News e-newsletter to learn more about how readers perceive the newsletter and the information it provides. Please follow this link to complete a brief, five-minute survey.
Survey results will help the Association’s communications team learn more about reader preferences and interests and understand whether changes are needed to help the newsletter better meet readers’ needs.
ASLRRA members have exclusive access to downloadable Drug and Alcohol Educational Materials, including posters, a Part 219 educational brochure, affidavit templates and employer review documents, designed in consultation with subject matter experts on the association’s Safety & 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,” “Drug & Alcohol Rules & Regulations” and “The DOT's New Oral Fluid Testing Final Rule – What Do Employers Need to Know?”, all available free to members in ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar library.
ASLRRA is expanding the Association’s Member Discount Program (MDP) to include Preferred Providers of electronic record-keeping, background screening, and payroll processing services, plus we’re adding new providers to the grant writing services category.
ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program leverages the buying power of association members to secure significant cost savings on essential business products and services; create a vetting process for potential partners and establish exceptional service expectations on behalf of association members; and generate non-dues revenue to support and enhance ASLRRA programs and services. Each provider is carefully vetted, and is marketed by the ASLRRA to its members.
ASLRRA is actively seeking proposals from member companies interested in participating in the program. Please contact Sabrina Waiss for the latest Request for Information (RFI) on the above-listed categories, or to recommend and discuss a new category of products and services for consideration.
The Eastern and Southern Region Meeting agenda is full of general and education session speakers who will give expert insight into issues facing the short line railroad industry. This includes a panel of ASLRRA members who speak about their first-hand experience with hazmat derailments.
The Finance and Administration Seminar and General Counsel Symposium will also feature experts who can provide attendees with information about their career fields as they relate to specific issues within the railroad industry. Follow the links above to register for each event.
Sign On to Sponsor ASLRRA’s Finance and Administration Seminar or General Counsel Symposium
ASLRRA continues to welcome sponsors for its Finance and Administration Seminar and General Counsel Symposium – two events geared toward providing railroad industry professionals in the finance, human resources and legal fields with up-to-date, industry- and craft-specific information.
Companies looking to sponsor ASLRRA’s seminar or symposium should contact ASLRRA’s Vice President, Meetings Amy Westerman.
ASLRRA President Chuck Baker’s column in the August edition of Railway Age magazine focuses on the Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI) and the role the organization plays in bolstering safety culture and safe practices at small railroad companies.
Baker provides an overview of SLSI’s history and mission. He also describes the SLSI’s safety culture assessments and how these voluntary, non-punitive evaluations can help short lines identify areas of strength and opportunities for growth in their organization’s safety culture.
Most short-line freight railroads are very familiar with the FRA’s CRISI grant program. But there are other federal grant programs that can support freight rail investments which could be a fit for a short line railroad project. In this webinar, ASLRRA’s Richard Sherman and Zach Radford will survey these programs, discussing elements like eligibility, match requirements, schedules and historical award patterns.
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.
Several of ASLRRA’s recorded webinars cover FRA Part 219, control of alcohol and drug use. Look for the following titles in the Association’s On-Demand Webinar Library:
Visit ASLRRA's On-Demand Webinars Page and log in to access a complete list of all ASLRRA’s nearly 200 webinar recordings.
Click here to learn more about our education offerings.
Four spots remain in the Short Line Safety Institute’s (SLSI) Leading Forward – Skills Development for Railroad Professionals class, formerly known as Leadership Development Training, which will be held from Aug. 22 to 24 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
SLSI also will host a Leading Forward Class: Special Event for Women in Rail Transportation that has space for seven additional attendees. Taking place Oct. 24 to 26 in Denver, Colorado, this special event features an emphasis on the unique issues that women in the rail workplace face.
Like all SLSI’s training opportunities and resources, both courses are offered at no charge to railroads. Once registration is full, those still interested can email SLSI Director of Safety Culture Programs Sam Cotton at email@example.com to join a waitlist. Railroads can also host a regional or railroad-specific leadership training event. Contact Cotton to discuss scheduling such an event.
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.