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May 17, 2017

ASLRRA’s Annual Report Showcases 2016 Challenges and Accomplishments

ASLRRA’s Annual Report is now available online. Please click here to view it. ASLRRA President Linda Darr noted that 2016 was marked by a changed political landscape, from an environment of over-regulation at the beginning of the year to a call for regulatory reform including roll-backs at the end. ASLRRA’s successes included winning a $2.5 million grant to develop a Back Office Server system to make compliance with the Positive Train Control mandate for short lines more affordable; a win in the fight against bigger trucks; garnering a bipartisan majority in congress supporting the BRACE Act; and suspension of the two person crew rule. ASLRRA Chair Judy Petry shared her management philosophy and priorities including grant accounting and reporting. Linda Darr announced that a strategic planning framework utilizing hands on focus groups will help us tell the short line story and map a path forward in a climate of economic upheaval and social change. Highlights of the years’ events and the Association’s financial position were also shared.

ASLRRA 2017 CONNECTIONS Photos and Video Now Available On-Line!

Want to see what went on at ASLRRA 2017 CONNECTIONS in Grapevine, Texas? View photos of Committee Meetings; General Sessions and other networking activities by clicking here. ASRLRA Award Videos including Safety Person, Safety Professional, Marketing and the Distinguished Service Award, are available on our YouTube Channel.

Upcoming Webinars Include Ethanol Transportation

The Short Line Safety Institute will present a one hour Webinar on Ethanol Transportation on May 25th at 2:00 pm. Experts from the Renewable Fuels Association will discuss Ethanol: the commodity, industry trends, and safety resources for emergency response. A question and answer period will be conducted live with participants after the presentation. Register today by clicking here.

Legislative Update

BRACE Act Momentum Builds in Senate and House

Our industry has secured 41 Co-sponsors for the BRACE Act in the Senate (S. 407), and 165 Co-sponsors in the House (H.R. 721). Railroad Day was instrumental in this swell of co-sponsorships, once again confirming the bi-partisan support for this issue. Please visit our website for plenty of information, handouts, and maps and contact our Washington team member Fred Oelsner for tips on how to reach out to your representatives today!

ASLRRA’s Jo Strang Participates in Panel: The Power and Value of Rail on Capitol Hill

ASLRRA’s Jo Strang, VP Safety and Regulatory Policy, brought the Short Line perspective to a panel discussion entitled “The Power and Value of Rail in the U.S.” on Capitol Hill analyzing the railroad industry's contributions to the U.S. economy. Railway Supply Institute and Amtrak joined the panel discussion. The event sponsors, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and grassroots advocacy organization GoRail, at the same time recognized Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) for their consistent, bipartisan leadership on issues affecting U.S. railroads and the nation's rail network, with the first-ever Railroad Achievement Award.

Join the Infrastructure Week Conversation - Tell our Government It's #TimeToBuild

Infrastructure Week is a national week of education and advocacy that brings together American businesses, workers, elected leaders, and everyday citizens around one message: It’s #TimeToBuild. From May 15-19, leaders and citizens are focusing attention on the state of our nation’s infrastructure – roads, bridges, rail, ports, airports, water and sewer systems, the energy grid, and more – and encourage policymakers to invest in the projects, technologies, and policies necessary to make America competitive, prosperous, and safe. It’s not too late to participate in this unified message!

Help Support Operation Lifesaver on June 20th!

Operation Lifesaver (OLI) has helped reduce the number of train/vehicle collisions by more than 83 percent since it was founded in 1972. But there is more work to do; every three hours in the U.S., a person or vehicle is hit by a train. The Operation Lifesaver board is planning a 45th Anniversary Reception on Tuesday, June 20, from 5-7 p.m. at the Columbus Club in Washington, DC’s Union Station. This event will highlight and celebrate the important work that Operation Lifesaver and its safety partners have been doing over the past 45 years. Invitations to this widely-attended event will be sent to Members of Congress and congressional staff, key federal officials and other decision-makers. Please click on this link to find out how to sponsor the event. For more information about how to get involved, please contact ASLRRA’s Jo Strang, Vice Chair of Operation Lifesaver.

ASLRRA’s Washington Team Provides Support for your State by State Outreach Effort

ASLRRA’s Washington Team can provide your company with a state by state listing of upcoming legislative activities along with letters drafted specifically for your messaging efforts at the national level. Learn more about the state-by-state community impact of rail, including valuable statistics, important contacts, and shareable stories by clicking here. Please contact Adam Nordstrom for more information.

Regulatory Update

OIG Releases Report Highlighting Areas for Improvement in FRA Audit Procedures

The U.S. Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General has released a report that assesses the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) collection and management of railroad safety data. The May 13, 2017 report is entitled “FRA Has Taken Steps to Improve Safety Data Reporting but Lacks Standard Procedures and Training for Compliance Audits”. The OIG makes recommendations to clarify FRA’s reporting guidance, improve FRA’s oversight of non-class I railroads’ mandatory reporting, and formalize the Part 225 audit process. The report can be found by clicking this link.

FRA Issues Analysis of Grade Crossing Accidents

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has released its “In-Depth Data Analysis of Grade Crossing Accidents Resulting in Injuries and Fatalities”. The study evaluates the causes of accidents over a 10-year period to determine the degree of risk and exposure at each type of crossing. Please click here to download the report.

FAMES Committee Issues Bridge Worker Safety Recommendations

The FAMES committee, consisting of representatives from Class Is, AAR, ASLRRA, NRC, Labor and FRA, has issued recommendations regarding bridge worker safety. The FAMES committee reviewed incidents and resulting 12 fatalities between 1998 and 2013. To view the recommendations please click here. If you have any questions, please contact ASLRRA’s JR Gelnar. The Mission of the Fatality Analysis of Maintenance-of-way Employees and Signalmen (FAMES) committee is to analyze all fatalities and selected related incidents in order to make recommendations to reduce the risk of future occurrences and eliminate fatalities to roadway workers.

Survivor Benefits Rules Highlighted in This Week’s RRB Newsletter

The U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) recently issued a write up on Survivor Benefits. With the exception of one type of lump-sum death benefit, eligibility depends on whether or not a deceased employee was “insured” under the Railroad Retirement Act. An employee is insured if he or she has at least 120 months (10 years) of railroad service, or 60 months (5 years) performed after 1995, and a “current connection” with the railroad industry as of the month the annuity begins or the month of death. It is interesting to note that working for certain U.S. Government agencies does not break a current connection. Click on this link to read the newsletter.

Grass Roots Visits

On May 12, U.S. Congressman Steve Womack joined American Short Line & Regional Railroad (ASLRRA) member Arkansas & Missouri Railroad (A&M) for a trip from Ft. Smith to Rudy on one of the railroad’s excursion cars, stopping along the way for a tour of the Arkansas River Bridge. A&M Chairman Caren Kraska greeted the Congressman and guests at one of the railroad’s warehouse facilities in Ft. Smith. Out of the approximately 600 freight railroads in the U.S., Ms. Kraska is the only known female majority shareholder who also leads day-to-day management. Please click here to read the press release.

Participants disembarked at the Arkansas River Bridge for a tour. The City of Ft. Smith recently applied for a Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) grant to repair and rehabilitate aging railroad infrastructure, including the Arkansas River Bridge. The project would prevent disruptions to rail and river traffic, which threatens to put tens of thousands of extra heavy trucks on I-49 each year, and ensure that the fast-growing Northwest Arkansas region is reliably connected to national freight networks. Last week, President Trump signed an omnibus appropriations bill that allows for a 2nd round of FASTLANE to begin. This will be an $850 million program in FY17.

Member News

Buckingham Branch Railroad Announces Wilson’s Retirement

ASLRRA member Buckingham Branch Railroad has announced that Gale Wilson will retire as Senior Vice President. Wilson joined the railroad in 2004, advancing to Vice President in 2009 and Senior Vice President in 2011. As Senior VP, he played a vital role in the growth and success of the Buckingham Branch as it expanded. Wilson also served as General Manager of the Shenandoah Valley Railroad. Please click here to read the press release.

Indiana Harbor Belt Begins Conversion to Dual Fuel Engines

ASLRRA member Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad (IHB) will use two dual fuel locomotive engine systems from OptiFuel Systems LLC for the railroad’s compressed natural gas (CNG) repower program. The systems will be installed on the first two of 31 CNG Tier 4 switcher locomotives in IHB's program. The dual fuel natural gas system includes OptiFuel Systems-designed onboard CNG storage units and trackside CNG refueling station. IHB may be the first U.S. railroad to convert its fleet to clean-burning natural gas as its primary fuel source. ASLRRA associate member R. J. Corman Railpower Locomotives LLC is the contractor for the overall design, assembly and integration of the IHB program.

Vermont Rail System and Pan Am Railways Team up to Provide Rail Service

Two short line companies, Vermont Rail System (VRS) and Pan Am Railways (Pan Am), with the calcium carbonate producer Omya, have collaborated to solve paper mill service issues – and developed a new plan for a weekly unit train that requires each party to contribute to the solution. Omya loads the cars in blocks. VRS stages the cars and builds the trains. And Pan Am commits to running the slurry train regardless of the car count. These changes have resulted in a 70% reduction in car handling and resolved transit time variability. The train has been averaging around 55 car loads, and has eliminated the use of trucks by Omya for this route.

G&W Subsidiary Acquires Operator of Off-Dock Container Terminals In UK

Genesee & Wyoming Inc. subsidiary GWI UK Acquisition Co. Ltd. has completed its acquisition of Pentalver Transport Ltd. from APM Terminals. Pentalver's operations are complementary to those of Genesee & Wyoming's (G&W) Freightliner subsidiary, which provides maritime container transportation by rail in the United Kingdom. Click here to read the press release.

LRIW Seeks Nominations for Four Key Board Positions

The League of Railway Industry Women (LRIW) is seeking nominations for four key Board of Directors positions: Scholarship Chair, Membership Chair, Awards Chair and Director. The terms of these three-year positions will begin in fall 2017. The deadline for nominations is June 16th. Jodi Heldt, LRIW President comments that "the LRIW was founded on the ideology that women in the railroading industry, no matter their professional level, have access to leadership positions where they can contribute to the industry, network, make a difference, and grow professionally. Please click here for a nomination form or contact Mary Schroll, LRIW Parliamentarian.

Railway Supply Institute Seeks Board Member Nominations

The Railway Supply Institute (RSI) is soliciting nominations to serve on its board of directors for a term beginning in January, 2018. Board members serve a three-year term. Nominees must be from RSI member companies in good standing; individuals may self-nominate. Please click here to download an application.

Special Short Line Engineer Training Opportunity Offered by NARS

ASLRRA is working with Associate Business Member National Academy of Railroad Sciences (NARS) on a short line engineer training course for this spring. The course will be held at NARS on the campus of Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, KS. The intensive, eight-day course provides short line engineers with critical training on locomotive and freight car air brake systems as well as locomotive mechanical systems and basic train handling. Students will participate in approximately 12 hours of hands-on Type II locomotive simulator training.  Please contact Program Director Tony Lacy on (913) 469-2460 with any questions and click here to enroll.  

Save the Dates!

You’ll find interactive learning activities, networking opportunities, and use-again take-aways at ASLRRA’s Regional Meetings and F&A / General Counsel Symposium. Three convenient locations with plenty of reasonably priced travel options are the hallmarks of our 2017 regional meetings schedule.

Southern Region Meeting
Charleston Marriott
Charleston, South Carolina
September 25 - 27, 2017

Eastern Region Meeting
The Omni Providence Hotel
Providence, Rhode Island
October 23 - 25, 2017

Central/Pacific Region Meeting
Intercontinental Kansas City at the Plaza
Kansas City, Missouri
November 13 - 15, 2017

General Counsel Symposium/Finance & Administration Seminar
Intercontinental Kansas City at the Plaza
Kansas City, Missouri
November 15 - 17, 2017

Views & News is published by the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association. Please contact Elizabeth Sands, Editor,  with any questions or comments.