Representing the Short Line Industry - Telling Our Story

Experts from ASLRRA’s staff represent the short line industry, and particularly our members, testifying before a variety of Congressional and Regulatory bodies.  We are engaged in topics such as rail technology trends, economic impact of rail, increases in truck size and weight, regulations and compliance issues, customer service, interchange challenges, safety and tax policies such as the short line tax credit. Below you will find recent written testimonies given by ASLRRA on behalf of our members.


October 22, 2021:

ASLRRA joined AAR in filing this response to the FRA’s August 23, 2021 information request reflecting the agency’s renewal of a paperwork collections approval for locomotive safety standards (CFR 49 Part 229). The parties note that no regulation has changed, yet the report indicates a substantial reduction in time spent managing the regulation and the related paperwork (232,348 hours, while in 2018 OMB determined the collection burden for complying with essentially the same rules was 3,815,751 hours). The parties ask for an opportunity to review the data that supports the 94% reduction in the estimated burden. Absent that information, the AAR and ASLRRA call the proposed changes to the estimated burden capricious and arbitrary.
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September 24, 2021:

ASLRRA and AAR filed supplemental comments in response to FRA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to revise 49 C.F.R. Part 232 to address the use of electronic air brake slips (“eABS”) to track mechanical inspections and freight car mileage. The associations reiterated and provided additional support for FRA’s action to modernize and improve its existing air brake inspection regulations and to implement certain proposals in AAR’s 2019 petition for rulemaking on the same topic. This rulemaking, if finalized, would move safety forward while also directly advancing climate and environmental goals.
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September 3, 2021:

ASLRRA joined AAR in responding to an Environmental Protection Agency’s August 4 request for recommendations to Waters of the United States (WOTUS). The Associations support a clear, common-sense approach to regulating features such as WOTUS, and support continuing the general exclusion for ditches as drafted in the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. As the Agencies consider new approaches, the Associations request consideration for express exclusion of railroad ditches in any revised rule or implementing guidance.
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September 2, 2021:

ASLRRA joined the AAR in filing comments on the Department of Energy’s July 26, 2021, “Notice of Inquiry on Preparation of Report to Congress on the Price-Anderson Act.” The Associations and their members urge the Department to continue the current Price-Anderson indemnification program without modification.
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July 12, 2021:

ASLRRA submitted comments in support of the Surface Transportation Board’s proposed regulations establishing a new emergency temporary trackage rights class exemption that could be invoked in specific situations and would allow emergency temporary trackage rights to take effect more expeditiously than under the current practice, which requires a 30-day notice under 49 C.F.R. § 1180.4(g)(1).
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June 7, 2021:

ASLRRA provided comments in response to the rulemaking by the Utilities and Transportation Commission to implement House Bill (HB) 1841, Chapter 170 of the Laws of 2020, at WAC 480-62-255, “Minimum Crew Size on Certain Trains.”   ASLRRA previously provided comments on September 4, 2020 and December 18, 2020 in this proceeding.  Unfortunately, the proposed regulations at WAC 480-62-255 suffer from the same deficiencies as HB 1841.  Specifically, the text is preempted by the ICC Termination Act (ICCTA) and provides a disincentive to short line railroads to upgrade their infrastructure.
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June 4, 2021:

ASLRRA and AAR filed comments in response to DOT’s notification of regulatory review regarding the consistency of existing regulations and other agency actions with the policies and objectives set forth in Executive Orders (“EO”) 13990 (‘‘Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis”) and 13992 (“Revocation of Certain Executive Orders Concerning Federal Regulation”).  The Railroads took the opportunity to comment below on two recent rulemaking proceedings undertaken by DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that directly further climate and environmental goals described in EOs 13990 and 13992.  The Railroads believe these rulemakings, “Brakes I” final rule and eABS NPRM, serve as examples of how regulatory modernization that facilitates greater efficiency can also deliver improvements in safety and environmental impact. 
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May 19, 2021:
ASLRRA joined AAR in submitting written comments in response to OSHA’s February 16, 2021, notice of proposed rulemaking to revise its hazard communication standard at 29 C.F.R. Part 1910. The parties urged OSHA to clarify that the proposed rule change is not intended to place additional regulatory requirements on railroads. The safe transportation of hazardous material via rail is already prescribed by the HMTA and the relevant PHMSA regulations. For purposes of consistency, compliance, and safety, DOT’s existing regulations should continue to govern all aspects of railroads’ transportation of hazmat.
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May 17, 2021:
ASLRRA filed written comments regarding the State of Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission's ("Commission") Notice of Proposed Rulemaking ("NOPR"), outlining concerns with the breadth of the proposed rules, the Commission's regulatory authority in general, and the viability of the proposed rules as it relates to federal preemption, judicial review, and/or agency review. In addition, ASLRRA questions if the proposed Rule would result in safety improvements. ASLRRA offered several changes to the rule and suggested partnering with FRA’s Rail State Safety Participation Program as an alternative to the proposed civil penalties.
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May 14, 2021:
Today, ASLRRA and AAR are submitting the attached comments in response to the Federal Highway Administration’s December 14, 2020, notice of proposed amendments (“NPA”) to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD). Our comments focus on the grade crossing-related provisions of the NPA, aiming to further ongoing safety improvements. The railroads specifically emphasize the revised MUTCD should involve grade crossing diagnostic teams that include railroad representatives in evaluating and determining appropriate safety measures at highway-rail grade crossings.
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May 11, 2021:
Chuck Baker testified on behalf of short line railroads before the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, Maritime, Freight, and Ports during a hearing, “Freight Mobility: Strengthening America’s Supply Chains and Competitiveness.” Baker outlined the key features of short line railroads and their contributions to a safe, competitive, and environmentally-friendly U.S. transportation system. Finally, he provided some guidance on policies that would enhance those benefits as part of a transportation or reauthorization bill.
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April 1, 2021:
ASLRRA joined AAR in providing comments to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (“NHTSA”) advance notice of proposed rulemaking (“ANPRM”), Framework for Automated Driving System Safety, addressing Automated Driving System (“ADS”) safety for motor vehicles. ASLRRA/AAR requested that all DOT agencies take a consistent approach toward safety advancements and technological innovation related to the development of autonomous technology across the various modes of transportation, including for railroads. Not only will the public benefit from technology-driven safety gains in rail and other industries, but a mode-neutral approach will ensure a level playing field among all transportation options. Additionally, ASLRRA/AAR commented that, to maximize the safety benefits of ADS technology, it must be designed to recognize all highway-rail grade crossings and respond appropriately to all active and passive grade crossing warning devices and approaching trains.
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March 16, 2021:
ASLRRA joined AAR in providing comments to FRA’s notice of proposed rulemaking to revise 49 CFR Part 232, addressing the use of electronic airbrake slips to track mechanical inspections and freight car mileage. ASLRRA supports FRA’s action to modernize and improve its existing air brake inspection regulations and to implement certain proposals in AAR’s 2019 petition for rulemaking on the same topic. The NPRM proposals would not only increase the efficiency of railroad operations, but would advance railroad safety, reduce injury exposure to railroad employees, and result in significant climate, economic, and other societal benefits.
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March 10, 2021:
Caren Kraska, President and Chairman of the Arkansas and Missouri Railroad (A&M), testified before the House T & I Subcommittee Hearing, “Full Steam Ahead for Rail: Why Rail is More Relevant Than Ever for Economic and Environmental Progress”. Her testimony included commentary on the nature of short line railroads, the economic and societal benefits of short line freight rail, and provided a number of suggestions for upcoming transportation funding bills.
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March 9, 2021:
Today ASLRRA joined AAR in filing comments in support of FRA’s NPRM to 49 C.F.R. Part 219 to include drug and alcohol testing for railroad mechanical employees. We also asked that the rule be extended to any employees who performs mechanical duties involving rolling equipment, should clarify post-accident testing obligations, should not remove Appendix C from the CFR, and should extend the effective date of the final rule.
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February 22, 2021:
ASLRRA has filed a Reply to comments made regarding STB Docket EP 704 (sub-1), stating that while the shipper comments generally opposed the proposed new approach, there were a few points that merited a Reply from ASLRRA on behalf of short lines. ASLRRA submitted comments to this docket on January 29, 2021. ASLRRA is opposed to the adoption of the proposed methodology.
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February 22, 2021:
ASLRRA filed comments generally in support of FRA’s proposed rulemaking on Fatigue Management (Docket No. FRA 2015-0122). ASLRRA also provided feedback on four items: more time is required for development and submission of fatigue management plans; workers not employed by railroad carriers should not be included in the plan requirements; FRA’s statement regarding widespread napping policies is overbroad; and more time is required to develop and conduct fatigue plans and training. Please note that only short line railroads deemed to be “inadequate safety performers” by FRA would be required to submit a fatigue management plans as part of a Risk Reduction Program.
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February 16, 2021:
ASLRRA joined AAR in submitting comments to the FRA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on to revise 49 C.F.R. Part 236 governing the Request for Amendment process when material modifications are made to Positive Train Control systems, and to improve the existing annual reporting requirements at § 236.1029(h). ASLRRA is generally supportive of the proposal, but provided several suggestions for changes: including a fourth option of summary approval of an RFA after 45 days, the elimination of COO verification of technical requirements, changes to the requirements of Biannual and Annual Failure Reports, and other information requests.
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February 11, 2021:
ASLRRA joined AAR and CSLRA in providing comments to California Air Resources Board’s (“CARB”) October 27, 2020 Notice of Preparation of a Draft Substitute Environmental Document (“Locomotive NOP”) for its proposed In-Use Locomotive Regulation (“Proposed Rules”). The comments note issues with many aspects of the NOP, including assessment of environmental and economic impact of each of the propose changes, and the range of reasonable and feasible alternative presented (as required by CEQA).
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February 9, 2021:
ASLRRA joined AAR in responding to FRA’s December 11, 2020 NRPM to amend 49 C.F.R. Part 214. AAR and ASLRRA agree with the proposed two changes, one that removes the reference to a specific standard that can become outdated quickly, and the second that codifies a current long-standing waiver related to unmanned drone roadway maintenance machines.
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February 3, 2021:
The ASLRRA joined AAR in comments in response to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (“FMCSA”) January 4, 2021, proposed regulatory guidance under 49 C.F.R. Part 395 governing “yard moves”. The railroads support the proposed guidance as published, concurring with the call to provide examples of yard moves in guidance, and the proposed examples of what constitutes a “yard”.
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January 29, 2021:
ASLRRA filed comments in response to Docket No. EP 704 (Sub-No. 1): Review of Commodity, Boxcar and TOFC/COFC Exemptions. On September 30, 2020, the Surface Transportation Board announced that it was seeking comments concerning a new approach its Office of Economics developed for possible use considering class exemption and revocation issues. We state that, in addition to the issues already present in the 2016 proposal, the 2020 new approach is overly complicated, relies on models or assumptions for which the EO provided no basis for using, the models are internally inconsistent, the added regulatory burdens are not outweighed by any benefits, the costs and complexity of filing a petition to revoke an exemption or seek to have a commodity exempted would be exorbitant, and it relies on data not relevant to short lines.
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November 9, 2020:
ASLRRA joined AAR in supporting the U.S. Dept. of HHS proposed addition of hair-testing procedures to the workplace testing program guidelines, as railroads already use hair testing as a tool for enhancing the safety or rail operations. However, the organizations noted that some of the details in the current proposal substantially undercut the added safety benefit hair testing can provide, and the organizations provided some suggestions for revisions in order to facilitate broad use of this valuable safety tool.
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September 4, 2020:
ASLRRA filed comments with the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission (Commission), arguing on behalf of its railroad members against the implementation of their July 20 filing of a Preproposal Statement of Inquiry (CR-101) for a rulemaking to implement House Bill 1841 (HB 1841), Laws of 2020, Chapter 170, which pertains to the establishment of minimum crew sizes on certain trains. In addition to establishing a minimum crew size for Class I operations and all Class III operations over 25 m.p.h., HB 1841 also creates a novel definition of a “Class I” railroad, threatening to set a dangerous precedent for short lines who are owned by a holding company. In the state of Washington, these small railroads, by virtue of their affiliation with a holding company, will not be able to operate with a crew size of less than two people, even under the short line exclusion for operations under 25 m.p.h. In addition to policy considerations, ASLRRA argues that HB 1841 and any implementing regulations are preempted by the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) and the ICC Termination Act (ICCTA).
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August 14, 2020:
ASLRRA and the AAR jointly filed a petition with the Federal Railroad Administration, requesting a waiver from 49 CFR 236.1021, which requires significant effort on the part of railroads for documentation, and FRA for review. Rather, the entities propose that if any material modification to PTC system and a PTCSP as contemplated by § 236.1021(h)(3)-(4) are made, that a host railroad (or AAR and ASLRRA on behalf of member railroads operating FRA-certified ITC PTC systems) would provide notification to FRA of such modifications in a more similar fashion to that provided when safety-critical modifications are made to a locomotive's electronics system under 49 C.F.R. Part 229, or when changes are made to Product Safety Plans under 49 C.F.R. § 236.913.
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July 26, 2020:
AASLRRA and the AAR jointly filed a petition with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requesting an exemption for railroad employees under 49 C.F.R. § 395.3(a) and (b) - Railroad Maintenance-of-Way for Drivers Responding to Unplanned Events. The petition asks that the FMCSA extend the recently granted exemption for railroad contractors to railroad employees. An unplanned event is one that affects interstate commerce or the safety of railway operations, including passenger rail operations, and that occurs outside or beyond the employee’s normal shift. The railroads request that this exemption be granted for five years as prescribed in § 381.300(b). This request covers approximately 20,000 individual drivers and 11,000 commercial motor vehicles (CMVs).
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July 10, 2020:
ASLRRA filed a petition with the Federal Railroad Administration, asking for reconsideration of certain provisions of the Risk Reduction Program (RRP) final rule.1 ASLRRA’s petition requests that FRA revise the provisions in the final rule pertaining to the determination of inadequate safety performance and how contractors are included in the RRP process. The agency should also provide clarity regarding the implementation deadlines.
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July 6, 2020:
ASLRRA Files Comments on EP 759 Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. In the comments, ASLRRA responded to four public comments that suggested that Class II and III railroads be included in the final rulemaking. ASLRRA urged the STB to continue to exclude Class II and IIIs from the proposed demurrage requirement as they did in the final rule of April 30, 2020.
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June 30, 2020:
ASLRRA joins AAR in responding to Executive Order 13924, requesting permanence of three temporary COVID waivers - 49 C.F.R. Part 228 – Quick Tie-Up; 49 C.F.R. § 240.127 – Recertification/Locomotive Event Recorder Downloads; 49 C.F.R. § 232.203 - Web-Based Training.
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April 24, 2020:
ASLRRA submitted a letter of support of AAR’s petition for a declaratory order that the STB finds that 49 U.S.C. § 10501(b) preempts the Clean Water Act’s discharge prohibition and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting regime as applied to discharge incidental to the normal operation of rail cars in transit.
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April 21, 2020:
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army published a final rule defining the scope of waters federally regulated under the Clean Water Act. ASLRRA and AAR submitted joint comments in support of the proposed rulemaking on April 14, 2019. 
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April 2, 2020:
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Railroad Administration has given ASLRRA 90 additional days to review the rule to determine whether to file a petition for reconsideration of the Risk Reduction Program.
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March 30, 2020:
ASLRRA joined AAR in a response to the Environmental Protection Agency‘s (EPA) Draft Methodologies for Estimating Port-Related and Goods Movement Mobile Source Emission Inventories. The response offers objections to the use of train counts vs. gross-ton miles for calculation of fuel use and emissions, the use of uncontrolled line-haul emissions on Class II/III movements which overestimates the size of the pre-1973 locomotive fleet and the use of a 2009 OTAC document in favor of more up-to-date data for forecasting emission factors.
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March 25, 2020:
ASLRRA requested that the Federal Railroad Administration extend the deadline for submitting a petition for reconsideration of the final Risk Reduction rule by 90 days to August 9, 2020, and to extend the effective date of the regulation by 90 days to August 19, 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19 on short line railroads.
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March 21, 2020:
ASLRRA joins AAR and APTA in an Emergency Relief Request under FRA-2020-0002 for a number of regulations for a period of at least 60 days, and so long as the declared national emergency remains in effect and while normal railroad operations and staffing levels are restored.
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March 16, 2020:
ASLRRA provided comments in response the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) request for information on improving and/or reforming regulatory enforcement and adjudication. ASLRRA provided suggestions in several areas – actions prior to the initiation of adjudication, during the settlement process, and the independence of government counsel.
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March 16, 2020:
ASLRRA filed comments in response the Federal Railroad Administration’s NPRM revising 49 C.F.R. Parts 218, 221 & 232, supporting the proposed codification of long-standing brake system safety standards, and provided additional comments on various aspects of the rule.
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March 10, 2020:
ASLRRA filed an amicus brief supporting DOT/FRA’s decision to withdraw the crew size rulemaking.
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March 2, 2020:
ASLRRA and AAR submitted joint comments in response to the Federal Railroad Administration’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NRPM) to revise its regulation governing Track Safety Standards (“TSS”) at 49 C.F.R. Part 213.1. AAR and ASLRRA generally support the NPRM proposals and the incorporation of the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee’s TSS Working Group’s work. In particular, they support the proposed codification of longstanding railroad industry waivers that have proven to provide for the safety of railroad operations. FRA’s proposals to codify the use of continuous rail testing to satisfy part 213 track inspection requirements illustrate regulatory flexibility, allowing for the expanded use of technology to enhance railroad safety for both Class I and smaller railroads.
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February 13, 2020:
In a letter to the Surface Transportation Board, ASLRRA responded to two issues concerning small railroads that arose during the testimony of some of the shipper witnesses in hearings on EP711 and EP 761 on December 12 and 13, 2019. ASLRRA requested that the Board disregard the comments or testimony of those shippers who advocated the imposition of the concept of reciprocal switching proposed in EP 711 (Sub-No. 1) in EP 761 and EP 722 as out of scope. Additionally, the Board should also disregard the use of URSCS as recommended by the RRFT within these matters. To do otherwise would be a manifest injustice to small railroads.
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February 10, 2020:
ASLRRA filed comments in response to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Request for Information: National Freight Strategic Plan. ASLRRA provided the short line industry perspective on questions posed, including the three most important challenges facing the U.S. freight transportation system, approaches to the multimodal freight system, and what barriers to freight efficiency (such as regulatory, technological, institutional, statutory) should DOT better understand.
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January 27, 2020:
ASLRRA filed comments in response to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Request for Information: Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success. ASLRRA called for the creation of a Disaster Recovery Program for rural railroads, a request to modify the financials required for applications to the RRIF Express program, and also offered suggestions making small ports eligible for the Port and Intermodal Improvement Program.
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