Regulatory – FRA publishes new safety bulletin and safety advisory
Legislative – Over 1,500 local officials sign letter opposing bigger trucks
Announcements – Rail employees can earn scholarships for industry training
ASLRRA Events – ASLRRA region meetings offer hours of industry training from experts
Webinars – ASLRRA in-house experts to provide insight on federal grants in Sept. 19 webinar
Industry Events and Announcements – SLSI publishes hazmat tip focused on OTMAs
ASLRRA has made a searchable member directory available online, allowing individuals to find railroad or supplier members and get links to company websites.
The railroad directory allows users to search for a railroad by state and/or commodities hauled. The supplier directory requires users to know some part of the company name. For example, typing in “rail” will generate a list of companies with that word in the name.
Members who log in have access to significantly more information, including finding out a railroad’s route miles operated, reporting marks, 286,000-pound capability as well as whether car repair, car storage and warehouse services are offered. Listings for suppliers will provide a company description, a full list of products and services offered, contact information and primary point of contact.
Autumn is near, marking a return of pumpkin-spice-flavored everything, Halloween decorations and fall train rides.
ASLRRA wants to feature members that might be offering fall excursions or participating in other community events this season. Please reach out to our communications team with information about any fall plans, then watch for an article in an upcoming issue of “Views & News.”
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued two safety documents, a safety bulletin discussing an employee injury that occurred during a switching accident and a safety advisory discussing wheel impact load detectors (WILD).
The FRA’s safety bulletin describes the circumstances of the switching accident that resulted in the amputation of a conductor’s left leg and provides recommendations to railroads to help them ensure safe switching. As the accident occurred when a switching crew was “kicking” cars, the bulletin encourages railroads to ensure employees receive adequate field training to recognize risks associated with the process and understanding proper procedures for responding to a rolling car and applying handbrakes safely.
The safety advisory’s focus on WILDs is related in part to the FRA’s preliminary investigation of a train derailment in Nebraska, where high-impact wheels damaged the rail the train was operating over and caused the derailment. The FRA recommends railroads and contractors continue to use WILDs to “help identify and replace high-impact wheels according to railroad current industry practices.”
It is not too late for small business members to participate in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) efforts to develop a potential standard concerning heat injury and illness in work settings. ASLRRA continues to seek small business members whose employees are exposed to high heat hazards to contribute to the process.
Transportation is one of the three sectors lacking robust representation in the feedback process. So far only one ASLRRA member is slated to participate in the panel. Other organizations interested in participating should contact ASLRRA’s Jo Strang.
OSHA will convene a Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) Panel starting this month 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 must be a qualifying small business according to the SBA Table of Size Standards.
A Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) technical report focuses on the current track geometry environment of the U.S. railroad system, the first time in 40 years the agency has commissioned such a report.
According to the report summary, the study’s main objectives were to “characterize the amplitude and wavelength content of the current track geometry environment of the United States railroad system and examine the combination of geometry parameters for different operations.” To achieve these objectives, over 49,000 miles of track were measured between 2012 and 2019.
The difference in the size of the data collection between the 1970s study and today’s makes it difficult to determine whether overall track quality has significantly changed from the 1970s. But the report does outline several general observations and make recommendations about use of some of the computer programs and data analysis algorithms developed over the course of the study.
An effort by the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks (CABT) to gather support for a letter to members of Congress urging opposition to increased truck length and weight legislation resulted in a final document with 49 pages of signatures from over 1,500 local government officials across the United States.
CABT delivered the letter to Congress on Sept. 11. In it, officials noted that keeping transportation infrastructure healthy is difficult given demanding maintenance schedules and budget shortfalls. Allowing longer, heavier trucks to travel on interstates would result in more of those big trucks on local roads, exacerbating infrastructure problems and increasing danger to communities and their residents.
Leaders including county and municipal officials, public works directors and county engineers from 45 states signed the letter. ASLRRA, a member of CABT, encouraged Association members to distribute CABT’s letter to local officials and ask them to sign it. ASLRRA also discusses the dangers of longer, heavier trucks on its advocacy page.
The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA) recently endorsed the Short Line Railroad Relief Act. It is the seventh organization, including ASLRRA, to express support for the bill.
In addition to ASLRRA and the NSSGA, the organizations supporting the bill are:
The Short Line Railroad Relief Act, 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 small railroad networks.
A bipartisan group of 20 representatives currently cosponsor the bill. ASLRRA staff continues to work to encourage members of Congress to support the bill by becoming a cosponsor, which will help the bill move toward becoming law. The Association’s website includes a disaster relief advocacy page that communicates the importance of this bill for small railroads.
The Senate passed a motion yesterday to advance a three-bill funding package, with one of the bills in that package the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) measure, which deals with railroad-related funding issues.
The Senate bill provides funding for grants like RAISE and the Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP) beyond what is guaranteed in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The bill also provides $572 million for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) grants, which is more than the fiscal year 2023 spending total. The $572 million is in addition to the $1 billion guaranteed by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
Policy highlights in the bill that are applicable to railroads include directives to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to conduct certain research related to detecting safety hazards, as well as to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to conduct research related to placards, labels and markings on train cars carrying hazardous materials.
The Coalition Heath Plan is specifically designed for ASLRRA members looking for a solution to reduce their medical premiums and simplify the healthcare experience for their employees. Partnering with HUB International puts ASLRRA members at the center of a vast network of experts who provide risk services, claims management, and compliance support. Visit ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program page and select Employee Health Insurance to start saving today!
ASLRRA training videos are a popular and important safety resource available as a direct download from the Association website. The Post-Accident Toxicological Testing Video is an interactive training video that provides instruction on when and how to administer post-accident drug and alcohol tests, while the Reasonable Suspicion Drug & Alcohol Signs and Symptoms Video provides detailed direction on drug and alcohol testing guidelines.
Visit ASLRRA’s Safety & Compliance page to access the full complement of safety and compliance tools, resources and information available from ASLRRA.
Keeping up with employee training is key to promoting regulatory and safety awareness at the individual, team and company level, and receiving a scholarship through ASLRRA can make it easier for small railroads to provide training to employees.
A generous donation from former board member Douglas Golden’s Douglas Golden-Mary Cullen Charitable Fund has enabled ASLRRA to offer $1,200 scholarships to eligible small-railroad employees for the past three years. A small railroad is one earning less than $10 million in annual revenue.
Employees can use the scholarship to pay for training registration fees and travel and lodging costs. Funds may be used for a range of industry-specific training supporting regulatory compliance and safety training, including ASLRRA’s Leadership Development Training – Regulatory Module which will take place Sept. 26 to 27 in Long Beach, California. Registration for the training has closed, but those who are signed up to participate and are eligible small-railroad employees can apply for scholarships.
Follow this link to learn more about the scholarship program, or click here to apply. The scholarship application process comprises completing a simple online form. The Association accepts and reviews applications on a rolling basis.
A number of rail industry leaders will be on hand to offer their expertise and insight to attendees of this year’s Central and Pacific Region Meeting, Sept. 26 to 28 in Long Beach, California.
From Short Line Safety Institute’s Executive Director Tom Murta to BNSF Group Vice President of Agricultural Products Angela Caddell, the industry’s top minds will be on hand to offer thoughts on issues important to railroad professionals and stakeholders.
In addition to key speakers and a full educational schedule, the Central and Pacific Region Meeting agenda features numerous networking opportunities like separate sandhouse sessions for Central region members, Pacific region members and suppliers.
Managing railroad employees often presents its own unique challenges. ASLRRA’s Finance and Administration Seminar offers opportunities for finance and human resources professionals in the rail industry to attend education sessions tailored to their experiences and set of responsibilities.
Likewise, ASLRRA’s General Counsel Symposium provides legal education as it relates to rail industry issues. Follow each of the links above to view an agenda for each targeted event. Attendees at the General Counsel Symposium can also register to receive continuing legal education (CLE) credits.
Both the General Counsel Symposium and Finance and Administration Seminar are co-located with the Association’s Eastern and Southern Region Meeting. All three events will take place Nov. 7 to 9 in Lexington, Kentucky.
ASLRRA President Chuck Baker was in Florida last week for CSX’s Annual Short Line Conference. The conference brings short line representatives together with CSX executives and sales and marketing leaders to talk business and build connections.
ASLRRA Vice President, Data and Technology Fred Oelsner was also in Florida last week to attend a meeting of the Association of American Railroads' (AAR) Rail Information Security Committee (RISC), which works to coordinate the rail industry’s cybersecurity efforts.
And ASLRRA 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 were in Washington D.C. for a meeting of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) Roadway Worker Protection Working Group meeting on Sept. 7.
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.
The aging workforce in the U.S. railroad industry creates risks for the loss of expertise and institutional knowledge. Succession planning alone, however, cannot fully address these risks. In 2022, the FRA funded a novel research project — Expertise Management for Safety Leadership Positions in the U.S. Railroad Industry — to address mitigating these risks. Expertise Management (EM) is a mature and under-utilized approach for identifying, capturing, and transferring expertise. EM builds on Cognitive Task Analysis methods that have been used successfully for training programs. This webinar will introduce the EM project, its unique approach, and its training products developed for the short line and regional railroad industry (e.g., Decision Games, Experts’ Stories, and Job Aids). The webinar will include a brief demonstration of how these products can be utilized in existing or new railroad training programs.
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.
Railroad safety & operations professionals will want to check out ASLRRA’s three-part webinar series on 49 CFR Part 225, Railroad Accidents/Incidents, presented by the Federal Railroad Administration and sponsored by PST:
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 U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will hold a webinar discussing the use of DOT’s data and mapping tools to strengthen grant applications. Presenters will also give an overview of the Screening Tool for Equity Analysis of Projects (STEAP) and the Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer. Click here to register for the Sept. 19 event. Those who cannot attend will be able to access a recording and presentation materials on the DOT website after the webinar.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold three webinars concerning different aspects of the grant process, specifically applying for EPA grants, the grant competition process and grant terms and conditions for fiscal year 2024.
The EPA administers Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grants, which can award funding to railroads for projects like retrofitting or replacement of diesel locomotive engines and other non-road engines, equipment or vehicles. The application period for DERA grants is currently open and applications are due Dec. 1.
Each webinar is free, but participants must register ahead of time. Separate registration is required for each event. See the list below with webinar titles and dates, and click the corresponding link to register.
The Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI) has released a new Hazmat Safety Tip discussing the one-time movement approval process for non-conforming bulk packages and packaging.
Sometimes a railroad must move non-conforming bulk packages and packaging to a safe location for repair or disposal. Bulk packages and packaging that no longer conform to the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) found in 49 CFR Parts 171-180 require a one-time movement approval (OTMA) issued by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
The Hazmat Safety Tip reviews the procedures to be followed when applying for an OTMA, the three OTMA categories and explains the required response for packages with active leaks. Click here for a downloadable .pdf version of the safety tip, or click here to view a video version. Railroads are welcome to use either version as needed to help remind employees about important safety issues.
SLSI’s staff has over 600 combined years of hazmat expertise to help short line railroads with hazardous materials training – all available at no cost to short line railroads thanks to grant funding from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
To address a specific area of operations, railroads can also schedule an Emergency Preparedness, Reporting and Response Exercise with SLSI’s dedicated team of hazmat professionals. Contact email@example.com for more information, or to schedule any training programs.
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.