March 31, 2016: (FR) (HM-253): Final Rule on Reverse Logistics and Hazardous Materials

The final rule regarding the reverse logistics of certain hazardous materials being transported by road will be effective as of March 31, 2016. As part of the final rule, the HMR will be adjusted to include a definition of reverse logistics with provisions for the transportation of hazardous materials. The current exceptions relating to the transportation of used automobile batteries between retail facilities and recycling centers will also be expanded as a result of the final rule.

Docket No. PHMSA–2011–0143 (HM–253)

March 24, 2016: Proposed Agency Information Collection Activities

FRA has submitted a request for a three year extension on previously approved information collection activities regarding bridge inspection report. FRA  is asking for the extension in order to continue providing a means for a state to obtain a public version of a railroad generated bridge inspection report. Interested parties may submit comments regarding the requested extension until May 23, 2016.

Docket No. FRA 2016–0002–N–8

March 23, 2016: Canadian Government Simulating Crude Oil Derailments

In an effort to improve preparedness of the emergency workers responding to accidents involving crude oil trains the Canadian government has been using flammable liquid used in firefighter training to create situations that mimic the 2013 Lac-Mégantic derailment and subsequent explosion. In the most recent training exercise firefighters arrived at a derailment that included 11 smoking tanks. The purpose of the training is to teach them how to identify the contents of each tank and decide if it would be safe for them to intervene at that time while also learning the proper way to extinguish the fire.
The  Lac-Mégantic tragedy lead to improved procedures and emergency response techniques and changes to the minimum crew requirements, speed limits, and the design of the tank cars used to transport crude oil. Transport Canada now requires frequent audits and track inspections, improved communication between municipalities, and has made changes to the Railway Safety Act.
The debate over whether it is safer to transport crude oil by rail or pipeline is still ongoing as both sides believe their method is safer.

The Canadian Government is Blowing Up Bomb Trains for Practice 

March 23, 2016: PHMSA Issues Clarification on Tank Car Loading and Unloading Regulation

STARS Operations Manager, Joseph Connelly, recently contacted PHMSA requesting clarification on the proper tank car loading and unloading procedures during the required external visual inspection of piping, valves, fittings, and gaskets listed in  49 CFR 173.31(d)(1)(ii). Specifically, loaders have been unsure if they are required to remove the bottom outlet valve or open the manway cover to assess the condition of the gasket, and whether or not they are permitted to leave the opening closed and just observe for leakage. PHMSA responded with the following clarification.
PHMSA Interpretation 15-0031


March 16, 2016: Using Tank Cars To Store Crude Oil

As a result of the oil prices crashing last year less crude oil is being moved by rail which is leading to more crude oil being stored in tank cars as some companies are waiting for the price to recover. Railway Supply Institute shows rail car manufacturers delivered 36,065 new tank cars last year but according to AAR the number of carloads of crude oil fell by 16.8%. While there isn’t an agency that currently keeps data on rolling storage of crude oil the practice does not appear to be widespread at this time. Many owners of rail sidings simply do not want the liability of storing hazardous materials. Many major railroads will only move cars containing hazardous materials but will not store them. Storing crude oil in a rail car can cost up to $5 per barrel every month. One tank car can typically hold 700 barrels. Ernie Barsamian, a principal of The Tank Tiger stated “It’s really more of an opportunistic play if you’re sitting on a bunch of rail cars. If you are looking to lease the cars or have to lease the track, it’s not as attractive”.
According to federal regulations tank cars loaded with crude oil can only be stored on private tracks and the owner of that track must have security plans that will prevent unauthorized access to the contents.
Matthew Lehner, an FRA spokesman, stated “FRA is closely monitoring the transportation of crude oil and other energy products, and if we find that additional steps are necessary to address safety concerns, we will take them”.

Using Tank Cars To Store Crude Oil

March 21, 2016: Petition for Waiver of Compliance

San Diego Trolley Incorporated submitted a request to FRA for a five year extension with modifications to an existing waiver of compliance. The waiver concerns certain sections of its light rail transit operations that utilize temporal separation which allows it to safely share track with San Diego and Imperial Valley Railroad.
At this time FRA does not plan to hold a public hearing but interested parties may submit comments until May 5, 2016.

Docket Number FRA–2000–7137

March 16, 2016: Petition for Waiver of Compliance

New York Susquehanna and Western Railroad has petitioned FRA for a waiver of compliance regarding the Confidential and Close Call Reporting System. The waiver would shield reporting employees and railroads from disciplinary action that can arise when an employee reports a close call.
At this time FRA does not plan to hold a public hearing but interested parties may submit comments until May 5, 2016.

Docket Number FRA–2016–0019

March 21, 2016: Petition for Waiver of Compliance and Statutory Exemption

The Association of American Railroads submitted a waiver of compliance petition to the Federal Railroad Administration relating to brake system safety standards for freight and non-passenger trains. The regulation allows extended haul trains to move a train no more than 1500 miles between brake tests and inspections. When a defect is discovered the equipment is only permitted to be moved to the nearest repair facility. In addition, all cars must have air brakes in operating condition unless it is being moved to a repair facility.
AAR is seeking a five year waiver that would allow a limited pilot program to be run on a section of the Union Pacific Railroad system. The purpose of the program is to show that the use of wheel temperature detectors to determine brake effectiveness not only improves safety but will also reduce superfluous costs to the industry.

Docket Number FRA–2016–0018

March 17, 2016: (SA) Movement of Roadway Maintenance Machines Over Highway-Rail Grade Crossings

FRA has issued a safety advisory to heighten awareness around railroads, railroad contractors, and respective employees. The safety advisory follows FRA’s investigation into the fatal accident that occurred when an on-track roadway maintenance machine traveling on main track collided with a motor vehicle at a highway-rail grade crossing.

Safety Advisory No. 2016–01

March 17, 2016: Railroad Safety Advisory Committee; Notice of Meeting

The fifty-fifth meeting of the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee will be held on April 7, 2016. The meeting will cover status reports provided by the Engineering Task Force, Remote Control Locomotive, Track Standards, Hazardous Materials Issues, and Rail Integrity Working Groups.

Docket No. FRA–2000–7257, Notice No. 81

March 16, 2016: Notice of Request for Proposals for Implementing a High-Speed Rail Corridor

The Federal Railroad Administration is seeking proposals to finance, design, construct, operate, and maintain high speed rail system. All proposals will be reviewed within 90 days of their submission. Interested parties may submit proposals until August 31, 2016.

Docket Number FRA–2016–0014

March 15, 2016: (NPRM) Train Crew Staffing

The Federal Railroad Administration is proposing regulations that would determine the minimum required train crew size. The size will be determined based on the type of operation being performed. Most railroad operations would require no less than two crew members but will allow for exceptions if the operation does not pose a safety risk to the environment, public, or railroad employees. The rule would also establish the roles and responsibilities of the second crew member on a moving train.
The proposed rule will offer two options should a railroad wish to start a new operation or continue an existing operation with only one crew member. Both options will require the railroad to provide FRA with safety related information and describe the operation. One option would require an FRA review and would grant approval for up to 90 days. The second option would allow the operation to begin or continue without the review and approval waiting period  or while the review is taking place. Interested parties may submit comments until May 16, 2016.

Docket No. FRA–2014–0033, Notice No. 1

March 4, 2016: (FR) Smoking of Electronic Cigarettes On Commercial Aircraft

The Department of Transportation has extended its final rule on the smoking ban on passenger aircraft to include charter flights where a flight attendant is a required crewmember. The ban will also include the use of electronic cigarettes on any flight that also prohibits smoking. This final rule will become effective on April 4, 2016.

Docket No. DOT–OST–2011–0044 

March 10, 2016: (NPRM) Evaluation of Safety Sensitive Personnel for Moderate-to-Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are working together to collect data and information relating to how common moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is among rail and highway employees who hold safety sensitive positions and what effect it has on the safety of highway and rail transportation. Additionally, both agencies will use the information collected to evaluate the potential cost and benefits that would arise should regulatory action be taken. Interested parties may submit comments until  June 8, 2016.

Docket Numbers FMCSA–2015–0419 and FRA–2015–0111


March 7, 2016: (NPRM) FMCSA Proposes New Training Rules for Hazmat CDL Endorsements

In response to the Congressional mandate that was imposed under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, FMCSA is proposing new training standards for some groups obtaining a CDL.
The new standards would apply to those who are applying for their initial CDL, upgrading their current CDL, and those applying for hazardous materials, passenger, or school bus endorsements. The effected groups must meet entry-level driver training requirements and will be required to complete a course of instruction given by approved entities. Approved entities must have training instructors that meet the minimum required qualifications, cover the curriculum, be listed on FMCSA’s proposed Training Provider Registry, and submit the training certificates electronically to FMCSA.
Interested parties may submit comments until April 6, 2016.


March 7, 2016: Notice of Safety Inquiry; FRA Seeking Comments on Train Horn Regulations

In an effort to reduce the economic burden on the rail industry and state and local authorities, FRA has decided to re-examine its current regulation on the use of locomotive train horns at public crossings. FRA is asking for comments on whether the current requirements should be modified, streamlined, or expanded. Comments may be submitted until July 5, 2016.

Docket No. FRA–2016–0010, Notice No. 1