Views & News - August 30, 2023

Views & News


Issue Highlights:

Regulatory – ASLRRA files joint comments responding to California Air Resources Board rule

Legislative – Organizations send 14 letters pressing Congress on truck weight legislation

Announcements – Space is limited in ASLRRA’s September Leadership Development Program

ASLRRA Events – Deadline is Friday for discounted hotel rates for Central & Pacific Region Meeting

Industry News and Events – Register for SLSI’s Leading Forward Class: Special Event for Women in Rail



ASLRRA Committee Profile: The Small Railroad Committee Amplifies the Voices of the Association's Smallest Members

We continue our profile of ASLRRA’s committees this week, telling readers about the many contributions of these groups to the Association and its members. There are 14 standing committees that guide the work of the Association, many of which met in person at last week’s Joint Committee Meeting in Alaska.


ASLRRA’s Small Railroad Committee represents members that are not part of a holding company, offering them both a collective voice and a nationwide network of industry colleagues.

In general, the committee’s three main goals are to provide ASLRRA leadership with the views and concerns of the smaller independent railroads; keep small railroads informed on Association activities, especially in the legislative and regulatory areas; and provide an open forum for discussion of mutual concerns, sharing of ideas and best practices.

Given the ways the short line world has changed, from being comprised of mostly small, locally owned businesses to today’s many larger properties controlled by holding companies, this committee benefits small railroads that do not always have the resources or staff available to larger companies. The committee’s feedback helps the Association craft educational and training programs and helps facilitate communication of news and common concerns among the small railroads and between the railroads and ASLRRA leadership.

The committee currently has 40 members. It is led by Chair Alan Maples, president of Everett Railroad Company, Vice Chair Laura Fay, vice president of Bay Colony Railroad Corporation/Seminole Gulf Railway and Secretary Tracy Alves, vice president, marketing and sales at Modesto and Empire Traction Company. Bylaws specify how committee leaders are appointed, but the committee welcomes participation by all eligible small railroad representatives. Those interested in joining the committee should contact ASLRRA staff liaison Sabrina Waiss.

Members hold both in-person and virtual meetings, which includes regular monthly Zoom calls. Committee meetings and calls serve as an open forum to discuss issues and share experiences, with recently discussed topics including employee recruitment and retention, disaster communications plans, flagged car and car repair data and more. The most recent in-person meeting took place at last week’s Joint Committee Meeting in Anchorage, Alaska.

This year the Small Railroad Committee has engaged in a robust discussion of rail safety issues in the aftermath of the East Palestine, Ohio accident, and helped produce a webinar on practical lessons learned from a hazardous materials incident on a short line.  Committee leadership has also participated in planning for upcoming regional meetings and provided feedback to the Association on its communications efforts.  And in June, Maples hosted an in-person networking session at Everett Railroad Company’s Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania depot for short line general managers in the mid-Atlantic area. 


Irwin Car Paid Ad



ASLRRA Files Comments Regarding CARB’s Modified In-Use Locomotive Regulation

ASLRRA filed two sets of comments last week in response to the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) second comment period on additional proposed modifications and documents for the agency’s In-Use Locomotive Regulation.

One set of comments, filed jointly with the Association of American Railroads (AAR), points out that members of both associations share a desire to improve air quality in California by reducing emissions from rail operations. However, the requirements proposed by CARB’s second modified rule remain completely unworkable given that alternative fuel locomotives are not commercially available now nor will they be in the near future. In addition, ASLRRA and AAR argue that CARB’s rule is preempted by federal law.

ASLRRA filed the second set of comments jointly with the California Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (CSLRA). These comments focus on the financial burden CARB’s rule stands to place on the state’s short line railroads. The cost of compliance for small railroads will be steep, and there lacks sufficient public funds to allow these railroads to meet CARB’s requirements. ASLRRA and CSLRA support their argument with an analysis of each of the funding opportunities purported to be available to help short lines meet regulatory obligations.



Organizations Send Over a Dozen Letters Urging Lawmakers to Oppose Heavier Trucks

Groups representing a variety of individuals and interests continue to press Congress to oppose any federal laws allowing heavier trucks on interstate highways. Over the past six weeks, key stakeholders have sent 14 letters to Capitol Hill with this unified message.

The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) sent a letter to leaders of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee urging them to oppose allowing longer, heavier trucks on U.S. roads. The NAEMT specifically calls for opposition to H.R. 3372 and H.R. 2948, which the House T&I Committee voted to approve in May.

The NAEMT reminds lawmakers that accidents involving heavier, longer trucks are significantly more severe and have a much larger crash footprint. In addition, first responders treating individuals involved in incidents on roadways are put at a higher risk by bigger trucks that are more difficult to control and take longer to stop, especially in inclement weather.

Several rail organizations also sent letters to federal lawmakers on this issue last week. The presidents of the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC), Railway Engineering Maintenance Suppliers Association (REMSA) and Railway Supply Institute (RSI) wrote to the leaders of the House Appropriations, T&I and Agriculture Committees urging them to oppose heavier trucks. Their letter cited a study by the U.S. Department of Transportation noting serious safety problems found with heavier trucks and the impact of those trucks on the nation’s existing infrastructure.

The president of rail advocacy group GoRail also sent a letter to the same House committees arguing heavier trucks would encourage a modal shift from rail to highways, increasing shipping costs and greenhouse gas emissions and causing more damage to the nation’s roadways.

The NAEMT, NRC, REMSA, RSI and GoRail are part of a diverse group of organizations, including ASLRRA, that oppose federal laws allowing heavier trucks. As noted in last week’s Views & News, the National Association of Counties (NACo), National League of Cities (NLC) and U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) recently sent a letter to Congress on the issue. And, when H.R. 3372 and H.R. 2948 first passed in May, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters issued a scathing rebuke to lawmakers.


House Subcommittee to Hold Hearing on East Palestine in September

On Sept. 22, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment, Manufacturing and Critical Materials will hold a field hearing on the February train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

The hearing, titled “Life After the Train Derailment: Ensuring Transparency and Accountability for the People of East Palestine,” will focus on the progress of cleanup efforts and what steps are being taken to address any remaining environmental issues. The hearing will feature invited witnesses representing the East Palestine community and the rail industry. A witness list will be made available closer to the hearing date.

The hearing is open to the public and will also be shown live online at the Energy and Commerce Committee website.


ASLRRA Leadership Development



Few Spots Remaining in ASLRRA’s September Leadership Development Training

Limited space remains in ASLRRA’s Leadership Development Training – Regulatory Module, which is co-located with the Association’s Central and Pacific Region Meeting in Long Beach, California. The leadership training will take place Sept. 26 to 27, overlapping with the regional meeting.

Presenters for the leadership seminar include industry- and subject-matter experts JR Gelnar, vice president, safety and compliance at ASLRRA, and Mitch Harris, vice president, safety and compliance at Rio Grande Pacific Corporation. The 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.


Members Receive Preferred Pricing on Drug and Alcohol Testing Services with Spark TS

Spark TS is the exclusive Preferred Provider of drug and alcohol testing services in the Association’s Member Discount Program. Spark TS’s expert team has built a program to support railroads and contractors in finding the most effective strategies to manage their company, Part 219, and other DOT-regulated programs.

Spark’s drug and alcohol program services include clinic and mobile and onsite testing services; laboratory and medical review officer (MRO) services; electronic chain of custody forms; and third-party administrator (TPA) - random testing and consortium. 

Visit and click on the Spark TS logo to learn more.



Book a Long Beach Hotel Room Soon – Rates Go Up After Friday

Friday is the last day for Central and Pacific Region Meeting attendees to receive discounted hotel room rates in ASLRRA’s room block at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach in Long Beach, California.

The Central and Pacific Region Meeting offers a full schedule of educational and networking opportunities. The agenda features insightful sessions on a number of topics important to short line railroads. These include overviews of different grant opportunities, discussion of new rail technology and information concerning federal regulations and regulatory compliance. The Association will also honor winners of its President’s Award during the meeting’s general session.

Click here to register for the Central and Pacific Region Meeting, which will be held Sept. 26 to 28.


Meeting Co-Location Brings Added Benefits to Attendees

ASLRRA’s Eastern and Southern Region Meeting this year has the advantage of being co-located with ASLRRA’s General Counsel Symposium and the Finance and Administration Seminar, allowing for additional networking opportunities for all meeting attendees and the ability to take advantage of multiple meetings in one week.

ASLRRA’s Finance and Administration Seminar will offer railroad professionals in the finance and human resources sectors several options for engaging educational sessions, including presentations on sales tax trends and benefits best practices, while the General Counsel Symposium will feature sessions discussing the Surface Transportation Board (STB), indemnity agreements and more.

All three events will take place Nov. 7 to 9 in Lexington, Kentucky.

ASLRRA continues to welcome sponsors for its Finance and Administration Seminar and General Counsel Symposium. Contact ASLRRA’s Vice President, Meetings Amy Westerman to learn more.




Out and About

ASLRRA Staff Attends Two RSAC Meetings This Week

ASLRRA’s Senior Vice President Safety, Regulatory, and Environmental Policy Jo Strang, Senior Vice President Law and General Counsel Sarah Yurasko and Vice President Safety and Compliance JR Gelnar participated in two Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) meetings this week.

Strang, Yurasko and Gelnar attended the RSAC meeting on the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS) today, and will attend an RSAC meeting on wayside detectors on Thursday.


Upcoming Webinars

Beyond CRISI: A Survey of Federal Grant Programs with Freight Rail Eligibility – September 19, 2023

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.


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.


On-Demand Webinars

Learn About Managing Crisis Communications with On-Demand Webinars

Managing communications is an important topic for short line railroads. ASLRRA has offered several webinars on strategic communications, presented by subject-matter experts. Recordings of these webinars are available at any time to ASLRRA members through the Association’s On-Demand Webinar Library. Log in and search the communications category to find titles like:

  • Government and Community Relations Fundamentals
  • Using Social Media as a Business Development Tool
  • Media Training Basics
  • Not In My Backyard: Responding / Reacting to NIMBYism in the Community 
  • Crisis Communications Fundamentals for Railroaders

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.


Industry Events

Four Spots Available in SLSI’s Leading Forward Class

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.