Posts Tagged ‘FRA track inspection rules’

FRA Issues Final Revised Track Standards Rules

October 10, 2020

The Federal Railroad Administration has published its final rule to revise regulations governing minimum safety requirements for railroad track.

Under the new rules, railroads will be allowed to inspect rail using continuous rail testing and to use flange-bearing frogs in crossing diamonds.

The new rules also relaxed guard check gauge limits on heavy-point frogs used in Class 5 track and removed an inspection-method exception for high-density commuter lines.

The FRA contends that the rule changes will benefit track owners, railroads, and the public by reducing unnecessary costs and incentivizing innovation, while improving rail safety.

The rule changes stemmed from the creation in 2015 of a Track Safety Standards Working Group of the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee.

FRA published in the Federal Register in December 2019 a notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to track safety standards.

FRA Changing Track Inspection Rules

August 29, 2020

The Federal Railroad Administration this week released its final rule on track safety standards that the agency said “focuses more on providing performance-based outcomes, rather than prescribing exactly how companies conduct effective tests.”

The agency said the rule will enable railroads to use  established methods to inspect their track while also granting them “the flexibility to utilize new technologies and methods as they are proven safe and effective.”

The rule is intended to allow railroads to use ultrasonic inspection technology augmented with global positioning system for continuous rail flaw testing.

Such inspections can be conducted by moving track inspection vehicles, which can potentially decrease passenger and freight train delays.

Current FRA regulations require ultrasonic rail test vehicles to repeatedly stop and conduct a manual inspection to verify indication of defects, within four hours.

In a statement, the FRA said such frequent starting and stopping can require slow orders for trains operating in the vicinity.

This effectively limits testing to about 20 miles of track per day.

The FRA statements aid continuous rail testing typically enables evaluation of 80 to 160 miles per day.

The rule will become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. View the final rule here: https://railroads.dot.gov/elibrary/rail-integrity-final-rule-unofficial

FRA Head Wants to Study Autonomous Track Inspection

January 11, 2020

The head of the Federal Railroad Administration wants to establish a pilot program that will be used to study autonomous track inspection.

Speaking at the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association Conference, Ronald Batory said the pilot would involve a Class 1 railroad and the data generated would be shared with the FRA.

However, he said he doesn’t expect the program to lead to ending physical track inspections by maintenance of way workers.

“It will ultimately reduce the risk and enhance  . . . safety and might require less physical inspection as far as frequency, but will still require physical inspections to confirm and fix,” Batory said.

“We’re going to find ourselves with a safer track structure where those vehicles operate, over the term that they operate, than what we had when it was strictly eye inspection.”

Batory said an autonomous track inspection vehicle might be able to discover more track defects than two workers riding in a hi-rail vehicle and visually inspecting the track.

“And we want to do the same insofar as signal and train control; we want to do it with mechanical inspections,” he said.

The FRA administrator said there is much opportunity to use technology to figure out how to maintain and operate railroads and to do so in better way than those of the past.

“That’s no disrespect to the past. It’s a new tool, and we need to embrace it and use it,” Batory said.

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 https://railroads.dot.gov/elibrary/nprm-rail-integrity-amendments-track-safety-standards.

To view the proposed Brake System Safety rule, see https://railroads.dot.gov/elibrary/nprm-miscellaneous-amendments-brake-system-safety-standards-and-codification-waivers.

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