Regulatory – ASLRRA requests additional extension of comment period for FRA’s certification proposed rules
Legislative – Short line relief bill continues to add more cosponsors
Announcements – ASLRRA grant writing partners help with applications for open funding programs
Industry News and Events – SLSI publishes new safety tip and hazmat safety tip
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) seeks the input of small businesses on a potential standard concerning heat injury and illness in work settings. ASLRRA is encouraging small railroads and supplier members that have employees working in high heat environments to participate.
So far one ASLRRA member, Farmrail, is slated to participate in the panel. Other organizations with questions about the process should contact ASLRRA’s Jo Strang.
OSHA will convene a Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) Panel in 2023 and needs representatives from small businesses, small local government entities, and non-profit entities from a wide range of industries to serve as small entity representatives (SERs). SERs will receive information from OSHA to discuss during SBAR Panel video conferences. The public can listen to panel proceedings but cannot participate.
In response to ASLRRA’s request for an extension, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has pushed back the comment deadline for its proposed rule concerning real-time train consist information. Comments are now due Oct. 27.
ASLRRA requested an extension to allow the Association adequate time to seek feedback from its members and compile thorough comments. The proposed rule would amend existing hazardous materials regulations to require all railroads transporting hazardous materials (hazmat) to have an electronic version of its train consist, keeping it updated and off the train and ready to provide to emergency responders in case of an accident or incident.
The NPRM responds to a mandate in section 7302 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) to require Class I railroads to have this real-time electronic train consist information available. ASLRRA staff continues to evaluate the rule and its impact to members and is preparing a specific response to the proposed rule. ASLRRA believes the rule oversteps the mandates of Congress, as short lines were not included in statutory requirements in the FAST Act.
A new alert from the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Switching Operations Fatality Analysis (SOFA) Working Group concerns two recent fatalities involving conductor trainees.
In June a conductor trainee was fatally injured during a shoving movement after falling into the path of the movement, while this month another trainee was fatally injured after encountering a close clearance situation during a shove movement.
The SOFA Alert reminds employees to remain vigilant while working with inexperienced employees and to hold job briefings whenever a job or situation changes, particularly before making a shove movement.
ASLRRA posts alerts from SOFA on its website, along with communication from the Fatality Analysis of Maintenance-of-Way Employees and Signalmen (FAMES) Committee and information from the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS).
ASLRRA has requested additional extensions to the comment periods for the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) two proposed rules concerning certification of dispatchers and signalmen. The Association asked for an extra 30 days due in part to a delay by the FRA in providing complete information including Supplementary Data to support the agency’s Regulatory Impact Analysis.
ASLRRA previously asked for a 60-day extension of the comment period, but the FRA only granted 30. As the Association notes in its most recent request, the additional 30 days would add up to the original 60-day extension. If granted, the comment period would close Sept. 29 instead of the current deadline of Aug. 30.
An extension would allow ASLRRA to fully examine the potentially significant impact the FRA’s proposed rules could have on small railroads and provide FRA with data to perform a meaningful regulatory flexibility analysis as required by the Small Business Regulatory Fairness Act.
The NPRMs would require railroads to develop certification programs for signal employees and dispatchers and submit those programs to the FRA for approval prior to implementation. Railroads would need to develop a process to train signal employees and dispatchers and verify their skills, as well as a process to revoke their certification.
A final rule published by the Department of Labor updates the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts (DBRA) regulations will raise the prevailing wage standard for over a million construction workers nationwide.
The new rule can affect an entity’s estimated labor costs for a federally funded project. Railroads and other organizations that are seeking or have already received federal grant funds could find their project labor cost estimates increase with these changes.
One major update to the DBRA is a change in the formula the government uses to determine prevailing wages. The prevailing wage is now equivalent to the wage of 30 percent of workers in a given trade in a locality as opposed to the equivalent of 50 percent of workers. The rule also makes it easier to keep prevailing wages up to date and strengthens the ability of the DOL to enforce the law, including the addition of a new anti-retaliation provision.
The DOL’s website answers frequently asked questions about the final rule. The agency will also hold two informational webinars on Sept. 13 and 14 providing an overview of the changes made to the DBRA regulations.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has published a literature review on the methods of measurement and characterization of track geometry.
The review, produced by the Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI), was meant to “summarize the current state of track geometry measurement and to provide recommendations on methods for processing and characterizing track geometry data collected under FRA’s Automated Track Inspection Program.”
The report notes that track geometry defects are the second-most common cause of derailments on Class I main line track, making understanding of track geometry measurement and characterization important to rail safety for the movement of both passengers and freight.
This bipartisan bill, introduced earlier this year by Representative Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), would create a permanent program at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to provide rapid emergency assistance to Class II and III railroads that are damaged by disasters. Today such authority exists at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for highways and transit, but not at FRA for U.S. small railroad networks.
The effort to establish a disaster relief program is timely given the recent events in New England and Hawaii reminding policymakers that serious natural disasters can strike anywhere at any time. This bill would help railroads and their local communities recover quickly from such events.
ASLRRA staff is working to encourage members of Congress to sign on as cosponsors of the bill, which will help it move toward becoming law. The Association’s website includes a disaster relief advocacy page that communicates the importance of this bill for small railroads.
Railroaders and other stakeholders who would like to join the effort can reach out to their members of Congress to encourage them to cosponsor. No professional advocacy is more effective than a lawmaker hearing directly from a constituent. ASLRRA Assistant Vice President, Policy and Industry Affairs Richard Sherman is happy to help make that connection. Contact him via email at email@example.com.
In the coming weeks ASLRRA and Iowa Northern Railway Company (IANR) will unveil the newest course in the pair’s Learning Management System (LMS), an online educational platform comprising part of the Short Line Training Center.
The new course will offer training on Part 214, Railroad Workplace Safety. The LMS provides and tracks industry-specific training and assessments. Existing courses include ASLRRA’s 22 Part 243 Model Programs and FRA drug and alcohol reasonable suspicion and post-accident toxicological testing training videos.
The Short Line Training Center, an ASLRRA and IANR collaborative project, combines the LMS and a Mobile Technical Training Center to deliver essential regulatory, compliance and safety courses and materials to railroad employees. The project is funded by a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) grant and training is available to all short line railroads.
The Mobile Technical Training Center is equipped with two FRA Type II locomotive simulators plus classroom space for six students and an instructor, and can deliver personalized, instructor-led seminars and locomotive simulator training on location anywhere in the continental U.S.
Funding for various railroad and railroad-related projects is currently up for grabs through several federal and state grant and loan programs.
For the federal programs, short line railroads are not directly eligible but can receive funding through a partnership with eligible entities such as local governments. The two featured state programs are making funding directly available to short line and port infrastructure projects. Click on links below to learn more about each open grant program.
To help members navigate the complicated world of grant funding, ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program features vetted Preferred Providers who offer grant-writing assistance at special rates. The experts at Bergmann and HDR can help Association members of all experience levels and at all stages in the grant-writing process create competitive applications for their proposed projects.
Federal Grant Opportunities:
State Grant Opportunities:
Representatives from Class I partners will be on hand to provide updates during both of ASLRRA’s fall regional meetings. BNSF Group Vice President, Agricultural Products, Angela Caddell will speak at the Central and Pacific Region Meeting, while Norfolk Southern Vice President, First and Final Mile Markets Stefan Loeb will speak at the Eastern and Southern Region Meeting.
Register today to participate in ASLRRA’s regional meetings in Long Beach, California and Lexington, Kentucky, respectively. The Association will also honor winners of each region’s President’s Safety Awards, and both meetings offer the many networking opportunities attendees come to expect from an ASLRRA event.
ASLRRA’s Finance and Administration Seminar will offer railroad professionals in the finance and human resources sectors several options for engaging educational sessions. These include:
New sessions are still being added to the seminar. Register today to take advantage of these sessions and the networking opportunities provided by the Eastern and Southern Region Meeting in Lexington, Kentucky. And railroad legal professionals will want to register for the General Counsel Symposium, which also takes place in Lexington.
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.
The legal category in ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar Library includes several presentations by subject-matter experts. Look for the following titles:
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.
The National Drug and Alcohol Screening Association (NDASA) will hold two training seminars concerning the U.S. Department of Transportation’s final rule on oral fluid drug testing. The training takes place on Aug. 24 in Anchorage, Alaska, a day after the end of ASLRRA’s Joint Committee Meeting also being held in Anchorage.
NDASA will hold an oral fluids train-the-trainer course followed by a session titled “What Will DOT Oral Fluids Testing Mean for the Workplace?” NDASA Senior Policy Executive Advisor Patrice Kelly will be one of the course presenters. Kelly has also participated in an ASLRRA webinar on the new oral fluid testing rule. A recording of that webinar can be found in ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar library.
The Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI) has published two new safety resources for railroads, a hazardous materials (hazmat) safety tip concerning non-accidental releases and a safety tip concerning blue signal protection.
The hazmat safety tip reviews non-accidental releases, including their definition, types and causes, and explains protocol for responding to such an occurrence. The information is available as a downloadable .PDF information sheet or a short hazmat minute video. Either can be incorporated into railroad safety briefings to help employees maintain safety awareness.
The safety tip offers a definition of blue signal/blue flag protection and explains how and when it must be used. Like with the hazmat safety tip, the information is available in .PDF form and as a video.
SLSI regularly posts hazmat safety tips and general safety tips to its website. The website’s hazmat minute video page and safety minute video page also link to the tips’ corresponding videos. Additional educational videos can be found on SLSI’s YouTube page.
Four spots still remain in the Short Line Safety Institute’s (SLSI) Leading Forward Class: Special Event for Women in Rail Transportation.
This course presents content from SLSI’s Leading Forward – Skills Development for Railroad Professionals course with an emphasis on the unique issues women in the rail workplace face. The event will take place Oct. 24 to 26 in Denver, Colorado. Click here to register or click here for a hotel link.
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.