Posts Tagged ‘FRA rules’

FRA Issues Safety Advisory on Portable Derails

November 1, 2022

The Federal Railroad Administration has issued a safety advisory for railroads and railroad contractors urging them to take steps to ensure the visibility of portable derails.

The advisory said portable derails should be clearly visible to train crews and operators of on-track equipment, particularly at night and in low-light conditions.

Portable derails should be removed when not necessary for on-track safety.

Regulators released the advisory following a fatal Aug. 29 derailment that occurred in a railroad yard at night.

A portable derail had been placed on the track earlier that day to protect multiple engineering work groups working on the track.

The train crew did not see the portable derail and struck it while operating at 9 miles per hour, derailing five cars.

Killed in the incident was the conductor, who was riding the lead car and was crushed when the car rolled over.

In a notice published in the Federal Register, the FRA noted that its blue flag rules “have long required mechanical derails to be used for the protection of workers on, under, or between rolling equipment to have a blue light illuminated at night.”

But portable maintenance of way derails are not required to be marked or otherwise illuminated for conspicuity, even under conditions of limited visibility.

FRA Revises Rules on PTC Reporting

July 31, 2021

The Federal Railroad Administration has revised its rules governing changes to positive train control systems and railroad reporting on PTC system performance.

In a notice published July 27 in the Federal Register, the FRA said it recognizes the railroad industry intends to enhance FRA-certified PTC systems to continue improving rail safety and PTC technology’s reliability and operability.

The agency said it is changing the process by which a host railroad must submit a request for amendment to the FRA before the railroad makes changes to its PTC safety plan and FRA-certified PTC system.

The rule also expands an existing reporting requirement by increasing the frequency from annual to biannual.

The change also broadens the reporting requirement to encompass positive performance-related information, including about the technology’s positive impact on rail safety, not just failure-related information.

The new rules will go into effect on Aug. 26.

FRA Publishes Grade Crossing Safety Plan Rule

December 16, 2020

The Federal Railroad Administration has issued its final rule that requires states to create plans to improve safety at railroad grade crossings,

The rule, which is mandated by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, requires 40 states and the District of Columbia to create a safety improvement plan for every crossing that has been the site of at least one accident or incident in the past three years, multiple accidents in the past five years, or is determined by the state to be at high risk for accidents.

Ten states – Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Ohio, and Texas – will be required to update their existing plans and submit reports describing their implementation efforts.

These states had the most grade-crossing accidents between 2006 and 2008 and were required to develop plans under a 2010 FRA rule.

The deadline for the plans is no later than 14 months after the rule’s Dec. 14 publication in the Federal Register.

FRA Changing Accident Reporting Rule

December 10, 2020

The Federal Railroad Administration has published a change it its accident/incident reporting regulations to modify how it calculates periodic adjustments to the reporting threshold and the way it communicates each year’s threshold to railroads.

The rule will take effect on Jan. 8, 2021, and agency officials said it is intended to improve the accuracy of accident and incident data gathered from railroads.

Current regulations require railroads to report to the agency all rail equipment accidents or incidents above the monetary reporting threshold applicable to that calendar year.

Starting next month the FRA will revise the percentage term used to determine a change in equipment costs so it is consistent with the percentage term used to determine a change in labor costs.

Other changes include a revision to the formula to use full-year data instead of only second-quarter data to calculate the reporting threshold.

The FRA will publish an annual notice on its website no later than Nov. 30 of each year the reporting threshold for the upcoming calendar year.

FRA Waives Certain Federal Rules for 60 Days

March 26, 2020

The Federal Railroad Administration has issued a 60-day waiver of certain rail safety regulations to help railroads weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agency acted after being asked to do so by the Association of American Railroads, American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, and American Public Transportation Association.

In waiting the regulations effective March 28 the FRA said its relief is generally conditioned on the existence of workforce shortages and other constraints as a direct result of the effects of the pandemic.

Those effects could preventing individual railroads from making a timely completion of all federally mandated railroad safety tests and inspections, or other requirements.

The FRA order did not waive compliance with all federal safety regulations and some waived rules can only be ignored if a carrier can document a direct workforce shortage or constraint as a result of the pandemic.

The petition to the FRA seeking the waivers said railroads “expect their staffing levels to be significantly reduced as fewer railroad employees and contractors will be available to perform necessary duties due to illness and the need to quarantine.”

In granting the waivers the FRA said it determined granting the relief, subject to certain conditions, “is in the public interest, necessary to address the current nationwide emergency situation involving the COVID-19 pandemic, and is not inconsistent with railroad safety.”

FRA granted temporary relief from:

  • Certain track inspection time-interval-dependent requirements in applicable federal law.
  • Operational tests and inspections of employees, which “would allow railroad managers more time to ensure railroads remain operational while addressing anticipated challenges in terms of potential workforce shortages or other constraints.”
  • Current restrictions imposed on utility employees.
  • Requirements related to the 36-month certification period for locomotive engineers and conductors.
  • The 60-day deadline for responding to petitions submitted to the Locomotive Engineer Review Board and the Operating Crew Review Board.
  • Requirements for locomotive engineers unfamiliar with physical characteristics in other than joint operation and requirements for territorial qualifications, respectively. The railroad must first determine that no territorial-qualified engineer or conductor is available. Those who were qualified on the territory but whose qualifications have lapsed must be assigned over an engineer or conductor that was not initially qualified. An engineer certified with “the most demanding service” should be assigned ahead of those engineers with a less demanding service as documented in their individual records. If the locomotive engineer is qualified on the portion of track to be operated over and the conductor is not qualified or whose previous qualification on the portion of track has expired, the train may be operated without restriction. If neither is qualified but the train is PTC active/engaged, the train must operate at a speed not to exceed 40 mph. Without PTC active, the crew must operate at restricted speed with an up-to-date track chart.

The waiver allows railroad employees to conduct “verbal quick tie-ups” at the end of any duty tour to increase social distancing and reduce the use of “common high-touch surfaces” such as computer terminal keyboards.

The waiver also permits locomotive movements between facilities at which locomotives have not had inspections and tests within the time periods specified in existing regulations.

“Because the limitation on the movement of defective equipment to the ‘nearest available location where necessary repairs can be performed’ is based on a statutory requirement, FRA does not have the authority to waive this requirement [but] it will not take exception to any railroad moving defective equipment to the next forward location where necessary repairs can be performed, where there is adequate staffing and resources available to make the required repairs in a safe manner. Railroads must endeavor to repair defective equipment at locations where qualified mechanical inspectors are present.”

FRA is not waiving the 100 percent operative-brakes requirement, but “will not take exception to a railroad operating a train from its initial terminal with 95 percent operative brakes.

Railroads must, however, comply with the remainder of the requirements [for] trains to have at least 85 percent operable brakes en route

FRA said felief is granted to allow trains to travel up to 1,200 miles without an intermediate Class IA brake inspection; [and] to travel up to 2,000 miles without an intermediate Class IA brake test.

That relief is only granted for those trains, locations or geographic areas where such extended mileage is necessary due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agency also granted relief from “the limits on single block pick-ups and single block set-offs  . . . such that railroads may add or remove more than a single block of cars to a train and those cars may be added to any location within a train consist or set-out from any location within a train consist, consistent with the railroad’s train make up requirements.

“Relief is provided from the requirements governing pre-departure inspections when combining two existing trains (two separate consists including one or more cars and one or more locomotives) that have been properly inspected and tested in compliance with all applicable regulations … without additional inspections, other than a Class III brake test.”
The waiver will apply to all railroads operating within the United States.

FRA Completes Risk Reduction Program Rule

February 19, 2020

The Federal Railroad Administration has completed writing a rule that requires Class 1 railroads to create a risk reduction program.

Each carrier must create a program that will be reviewed by the FRA and which identifies and analyzes hazards and their associated risks.

The risk reduction program must also develop and implement plans to eliminate or mitigate those risks.

The FRA said in a news release that the risk reduction programs are to be designed to improve operational safety and complement a railroad’s adherence to all other applicable FRA regulations.

The programs must be tailored for each railroad’s individual operations and reflect the substantive facts on any hazards associated with each railroads’ operations.

Class II and III freight railroads that have an inadequate safety record must also create a risk reduction plan and submit it to the FRA for approval.

The FRA said railroads must involve employees in implementation of the risk reduction plan, including during the process of identification of risks and hazards.

Risk reduction plans are mandated by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

FRA Proposes Rule Changes for Track, Brake Standards

December 21, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration has proposed new rules pertaining to track safety standards and its brake system safety requirements.

The agency said the proposed rules changes are designed “to promote safety innovation and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens.”

The track safety standards rule change would allow continuous testing for rail inspections and remove an inspection-method exception for high-density commuter lines.

It would also add several recommendations by FRA’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee.

Continuous rail testing differs from the traditional stop-and-verify rail inspection process, and extends the verification period to allow rail inspection data to be analyzed off-site and field verification to take place between 24 and 84 hours vs. within the current four hours.

The brake standard changes would allow trains to go without Class I air brake testing for 24 hours, extending the requirement from four hours.

The FRA said the change “is expected to significantly reduce [the] number of brake tests performed while increasing network velocity. This allowance is already safely in place in Canada.”

The new rule also would incorporate end-of-train device waivers related to battery change out, marker lamp height and the use of helper locomotives to initiate emergency braking.

“It’s time to modernize existing regulations to permit methods of inspecting, testing and maintaining track and mechanical equipment that are demonstrably safe,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory. “These updates are consistent with the performance and evidence-based standards that are already being used by many railroads.”

To view the proposed Track Safety Standards rule, see

To view the proposed Brake System Safety rule, see

Public comments on rule changes are due 60 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register.

FRA Seeks Date Changes for Training Rule Compliance

November 23, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration has proposed extending the deadlines for Class II and III railroads that are not intercity or commuter passenger railroads with 400,000 annual employee hours or more to comply with existing Part 243 training rules

In notice published in the Federal Register, the FRA is proposing giving railroads and contractors 16 additional months for compliance.

The new dates will be May 1, 2021, for program submission and Jan. 1, 2022, for designation of an employee’s occupational category or subcategory,

Starting May 1, 2023, refresher training must be delivered at an interval of three years.

The change in compliance dates had been requested by the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association and the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association.

FRA Cuts Paperwork for Small Railroads

August 30, 2018

The Federal Railroad Administration will allow some smaller railroads and their contractors to use automated systems instead of paper records to comply with federal employee hours-of-service record-keeping requirements.

The rule change was published in the Federal Register and does not require eligible short lines and other railroads to use automated systems.

“This rule allows a railroad with less than 400,000 employee-hours annually (an eligible smaller railroad), and contractors and subcontractors that provide covered service employees to that railroad, to have employees electronically sign the automated records of their hours of duty to store the records in the railroad’s computer system,” the rule states. “Thus, this rule eliminates the requirement to print and sign the record.”