December 4, 2017: DOT to Repeal Electronically Controlled Pneumatic Brake Mandate

The Department of Transportation has announced the final updated RIA (Regulatory Impact Analysis) regarding Electronically Controlled Pneumatic Brakes (ECP). PHMSA and FRA made the determination to rescind the ECP mandate upon reviewing the information provided by the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board, U.S. General Accountability Office, and studies provided by FRA. It was determined during the review that the cost of continuing the mandate would exceed three-fold the benefits it may provide.

DOT Rescinds Electronically Controlled Pneumatic Brake Mandate

August 16, 2017: (SA) FRA Addressing Electrode-Induced Rail Pitting From Pressure Electric Welding

The Federal Railroad Administration will be issuing a safety advisory to inform railroads, contractors, and rail welders that there is a  potential for electrode induced rail pitting and fatigue cracking during the pressure electric rail welding process.
Upon concluding its investigation, FRA feels as a result of improper electrode contact to the rail during welding can result in electrode induced pitting which can lead to fatigue fracture and potential rail failure.
Interested parties may submit comments on the safety advisory until October 16, 2017.

Docket No. FRA–2017–0074; Notice No. 1

April 13, 2017: (FR) Implementation of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act

The Federal Railroad Administration published a request for comments on July 1, 2016, regarding the interim final rule on the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990 – as amended by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015.
No comments were received so the rule will not be changed. It will be effective as of April 13, 2017.

Docket No. FRA–2016–0021; Notice No. 3

February 27, 2017: PHMSA Issues Notice Regarding IMDG Code and ICAO Technical Instructions

PHMSA has issued a notice to offerors and carriers of hazardous materials regarding the 2017-2018 ICAO Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air and Amendment 38-16 of the IMDG Code.
At this time, PHMSA has not made a final decision on whether or not it will be adopting the recent changes to the international standards. Until a decision has been made offerers and carriers will be permitted to use either the 2015-2016 or 2017-2018 standards for markings and labeling. The FAA, FRA, FMCSA, and PHMSA will be following this enforcement discretion until such time as this notice has been modified or rescinded.

PHMSAs Notice Regarding the IMDG Code and ICAO Technical Instructions

October 3, 2016: Railworthiness Directive for Certain Railroad Tank Cars Equipped With Bottom Outlet Valve Assembly and Constructed by American Railcar Industries and ACF Industries

The Federal Railroad Administration has issued a Railworthiness Directive to owners of DOT 111 tank cars built by American Railcar Industries or ACF Industries from 2009 – 2015. As a result of their non-conforming welding practices these cars may have substantial weld defects at the sump and BOV skid groove attachment welds which may compromise their ability to retain their contents during transportation.

 Notice of issuance and availability of Railworthiness Directive

August 12, 2016: (FR) System Safety Program

FRA has issued a final rule that will require commuter and intercity passenger railroads to develop and implement a system safety program. The purpose of these programs, which can be tailored to each railroad’s specific operations, is to proactively identify and mitigate or eliminate hazards. The final rule will be effective as of October 11, 2016. All petitions for reconsideration must be received no later than October 3, 2016.

Docket No. FRA–2011–0060, Notice No. 3

November 16, 2015: Petition for Waiver of Compliance

Kansas City Southern Railway is petitioning the FRA for a waiver of compliance on the accepted practice of stop/start rail testing. KCS would like to start a 3 year pilot test process of nonstop continuous testing that would begin on November 1. The test process would take place on the main tracks between Kansas City Missouri and Heavener Oklahoma on the Pittsburg subdivision and Heavener subdivision. Upon completion the test process will then expand to include the Shreveport Subdivision in Louisiana. KCS is intending to test the subdivisions within a 30 – 45 day frequency.
A bimonthly report that includes the in-service rail failure ratios, a report on the miles tested, and the frequency of the testing will be produced for the managers of FRA’s Rail and Infrastructure Integrity Division.
The data collected from the nonstop continuous rail testing vehicle will be analyzed from a remote location facility by experts who are experienced in reviewing Rail Flaw Detection test data. KCS believes nonstop continuous rail testing provides the ability to test track faster and more regularly.

Docket No. FRA-2015-0115

November 13, 2015: PHMSA Denied Appeals on Tank Car Rule

PHMSA received six appeals in response to the new tank car standards that were published in May. Of those appeals, only five were reviewed. One was withdrawn and the others were submitted by DGAC, ACC, AAR, AFPM, Columbia River Treaty Tribes and Northwest Treaty Tribes.
One of the issues discussed in the appeals focuses on concern over the definition of HHFT. DGAC and ACC believe the new definition is entirely too broad and should be adjusted to only include railroad operations and not tank car specifications.
DGAC feels that the shippers and railroads will have no way of knowing if the tank cars they are offering to a carrier will be assembled into a manifest train that will meet the criteria of HHFT, which now has additional requirements to ensure the cars comply with the new standards. DGAC would also like the term and definition of HHFUT (high hazard flammable unit train) to  be eliminated because it is unnecessary and was not proposed in the NPRM. In addition, DGAC is also requesting the speed restrictions listed in the final rule only apply to crude oil and ethanol trains because imposing speed restrictions on all flammable liquid trains will create delays in rail operations.
American Chemistry Council (ACC) would like PHMSA to revise the final rule to clarify retrofitting existing tank cars only applies to those carrying ethanol or crude oil and not to those that carry other class 3 flammable liquids. ACC feels that by removing retrofitting requirements on Class 3 flammable liquids other than crude oil and ethanol would reduce the capacity issues facing shops and would also provide greater harmonization with Transport Canada’s analogous retrofit schedule.
American Association of Railroads (AAR) opposes the final rule because it allows shippers to load Class 3 flammable liquids in DOT-111 tank cars that don’t meet the new standards as long as those cars are not placed in an HHFT. This puts unnecessary burden on railroads as they have to continuously analyze each train that is carrying Class 3 flammable liquids in DOT-111 tank cars.  AAR is asking PHMSA to ban the use of DOT-111 tank cars from transporting all Class 3 flammable liquid materials.

PHMSA and FRA responded to the appeals stating that they disagree with the statements submitted in the appeals and feel the new rule was issued after careful consideration of comments submitted during the rulemaking process and the risks flammable liquids pose. Both agencies acknowledge that shippers and carriers are going to face new challenges regarding the new regulations but believe that by working together all parties should be able to comply with the final rule. The statement went on to say that both agencies feel that limiting the scope of rulemaking to include only crude oil and ethanol not only fails to align with the intent and applicability of the Hazardous Materials Regulations it is also short-sighted and could potentially lead to inconsistencies and safety concerns later on.
PHMSA has denied the request to remove the definition of HHFUT. The definition, while not expressly proposed in the NPRM, was developed based on the comments received on the NPRM and a careful cost analysis. PHMSA feels that the definition is within the scope of the NPRM proposal.
AAR feels that all tank cars transporting flammable materials should be retrofitted to DOT-117R requirements. Shippers feel that only those cars that transport crude oil or ethanol should be retrofitted. PHMSA feels the final rule is a balance between the two opinions. The rule requires retrofitting all tank cars in crude oil and ethanol service plus the 354 tank cars in PG III service by estimating roughly 10 percent of trains transporting PG III commodities might meet the HHFT definition, and thus, that 10 percent of the cars would require retrofitting.

Read the complete 89 page document:  Docket No. PHMSA-2012-0082 (HM-251)



November 9, 2015: Petition for Waiver of Compliance

In September 2015 Graham-White Company, a manufacturer of electric locomotive parking brakes, petitioned the FRA for a waiver of compliance on 49 CFR 231.27(a)(2), which requires hand brake wheels be affixed to the input shaft using a square taper fit not less than 7/8″ square. Graham-White believes that their key and shaft design provides an equal or greater amount of safety than what is specified in 49 CFR 231.27. They are asking for relief from the hand brake shaft regulation and be permitted to use the key and shaft design that is currently in service on Graham-White electric parking hand brakes.
At this time FRA has no plans to hold a public hearing on the matter but will accept comments from interested parties until December 24, 2015.

Docket Number FRA–2015–0114

October 20, 2015: Petition for Waiver of Compliance

Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (JPB)  has recently submitted a modification request concerning two of the nine conditions specified in its existing permanent waiver of compliance to the FRA. JPB is considering purchasing electric multiple unit vehicles (EMU) that are not currently FRA compliant. They are, however, built to European safety standards. The EMUs would be used for the Caltrain commuter rail service in California that runs between San Francisco and Gilroy.
The first part of the request is focused on Condition 1 of the current waiver of compliance. The modification request asks that the existing condition, which states EMUs must meet or exceed crash worthiness performance levels that were identified and presented in the petition, be modified to align with proposed rule text for alternatively compliant Tier 1 equipment, which was developed by RSAC and its Engineering Task Force.
The second condition is a request to remove condition 7 of the current waiver of compliance, which states that JPB must submit a comprehensive temporal separation plan to FRA for approval before the EMUs are operated. JPB feels the proposed rule text doesn’t require temporal separation since the trains that have been built to these new rules are considered safe or safer in collisions than the trains that have been built to the current standards.  Furthermore, JPB stated that it is implementing PTC and the new EMUs will be compatible. This will reduce the risk of an impact between freight and passenger trains.
At this time there are no plans to hold a public hearing on this matter. Interested parties may submit comments through December 4, 2015.

Docket Number FRA–2009–0124


October 8, 2015: Petition for Waiver of Compliance

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) petitioned the FRA for a waiver of compliance from portions of the railroad safety regulations.  SEPTA’s petition focuses on Title 49 CFR 238.309(b)(2) which states that brake equipment and brake cylinders of multiple unit locomotives (MU) that are a part of a fleet which is 100% equipped with air dryers and has a brake system that uses RT-5A – style valves be cleaned, repaired and tested every 1,104 days. SEPTA is asking that the maintenance of the Silverliner V MU fleet, which uses the RT-5A+ brake system and employs a microprocessor based control system, be pushed to 1,840 days, which will fall in line with the maintenance schedule of other air brake systems that also incorporate microprocessor controls.
FRA does not have plans at this time to hold a public meeting but is accepting written comments until November 23, 2015.

Docket Number FRA-2015-0068

August 6, 2015: (FR) Securement of Unattended Equipment

The Federal Railroad Administration has amended the brake system safety standards for freight and non-passenger trains and equipment in an effort to strengthen requirements for the securement of unattended equipment.
Existing regulations regarding communication requirements and securement for unattended trains carrying poisonous by inhalation hazardous materials or large amounts of Division 2.1, Division 3, Class 1.1 or Class 1.2 hazardous materials were also amended to include additional securement requirements.
All locomotives that are left unattended outside of a yard will need to be equipped with an operative exterior locking mechanism. Any train that is unable to be properly secured is not permitted to be left unattended. The final rule will be in effect on October 5, 2015.

Securement of Unattended Equipment


August 4, 2015: FECR Submits Petition For Waiver of Compliance to FRA

Florida East Coast Railway (FECR) submitted a petition for waiver of compliance to the Federal Railroad Administration for provisions of the federal railroad safety regulations. The two parts of the 49 CFR that were the focus of the petition were part 240 – Qualification and Certification of Locomotive Engineers and part 242 – Qualification and Certification of Conductors. FECR is trying to protect reporting employees and the railroad from the mandatory punitive sanctions that would arise as provided in 49 CFR 240.117 and 242.407.
The relief is contingent of FECR’s implementation and participation of the Confidential Close Call Reporting System pilot project. The Confidential Close Call Reporting System will encourage certified operating crew members to report any close call while also protecting employees and the railroad from discipline and sanctions arising from the incidents reported.
At this time the FRA does not plan to hold a public meeting in connection with these proceedings.

Federal Register Volume 80, Number 149

July 29, 2015: (FR) FRA Issued Final Rule Regarding Unattended Trains

The Federal Railroad Administration announced a final rule that is designed to prevent unattended trains that are carrying crude, ethanol, poisonous by inhalation, toxic by inhalation and other highly flammable materials from rolling away. This rule will apply to any train that is left unattended on a main line, siding or rail yard  and is also carrying poisonous by inhalation or toxic by inhalation materials or carrying 20 or more cars of any other high-hazard flammable materials.
Under the new rule the railroad employees responsible for securing trains will be required to communicate with another qualified and trained individual in order to verify trains and equipment are properly secured.
In addition to the required communication, the rule also requires an appropriate number of hand brakes be set, air brakes are properly used, locomotives must have properly installed and utilized exterior locks and the removal of the train reverser.
The final rule will be effective 60 days from the date that it is published in the Federal Register.

FRA Announces Final Rule to Prevent Unattended Trains From Rolling Away

July 22, 2015: FRA Reminds Railroads to Notify States When They Are Traveling Through With Crude Oil Trains

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a letter to railroads today reminding them that they are required to notify both the State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) and the Tribal Emergency Response Commissions (TERCs) when traveling through individual states or tribal regions with Bakken crude oil trains.

The Federal Government issued an Emergency Order in May of 2014 that mandated railroads notify SERCs and/or TERCs when transporting 1,000,000 gallons(approximately 35 tank cars)  or more  of Bakken crude oil through individual states or tribal regions. In addition, railroads will also need to provide a volume estimate, the anticipated frequency of train traffic and the route the trains would be taking.
This Emergency Order further instructed the host railroads to provide contact information for at least one person. The FRA has since made this Emergency Order a permanent requirement.

The Acting FRA Administrator, Sara Feindburg, issued the following statement. “We strongly support transparency and public notification to the fullest extent possible. Railroads transporting crude oil must continue to provide the information required by the Emergency Order to SERCs and to update notifications in a timely manner. FRA will continue with random spot checks and regular compliance audits to ensure the states, local communities, and first responders have the information necessary to respond to a possible accident. FRA will take enforcement actions as necessary to ensure compliance.”

Federal Railroad Administration to Railroads: Notification of Crude Oil Trains to States Must Continue

July 7, 2015: FRA Submits Request for Emergency Processing of Collection Information

Federal Railroad Administration has submitted an Information Collection request for emergency processing under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. FRA has asked that OMB authorize the collection of information seven days after publication of this notice for a period of 180 days.

Agency Request for Emergency Processing of Collection of Information by the Office of Management and Budget

May 1, 2015: (FR) DOT Releases the Final Rule on Flammable Liquids by Rail

New Tank Car Rule: DOT117:

Standards for New and Existing Tank Cars Used in HHFTs

  • 9/16” normalized TC 128 Steel (that’s 1/8 thicker than current standards for DOT111)
  • Full height head shields (current is ½ height)
  • Thermal protection and jackets (existing regulations do not require jackets or thermal protection)
  • Top fittings protection (not currently required by regulation but is required by CPC 1232)
  • Bottom Outlet Valve enhanced handle design to prevent opening during derailment

Retrofits & Phase-Outs:

  • Cars not meeting the DOT117 standard being used in ANY Flammable Liquid service must be retrofitted or phased out, including all legacy and CPC 1232 DOT111 and TC111 tank cars. They will be required to meet a “performance standard”
  • There will be retrofit/phase-out schedule which will prioritize the “least safe cars first” starting with crude oil, then ethanol.
  • New tank cars constructed after October 1, 2015 are required to meet enhanced DOT Specification 117 design or performance criteria for use in an HHFT.
  • Existing tank cars must be retrofitted in accordance with the DOT-prescribed retrofit design or performance standard for use in an HHFT.
  • Retrofits must be completed based on a prescriptive retrofit schedule. The retrofit timeline focuses on two risk factors: the packing group, and differing types of DOT-111 and CPC-1232 tank car.
  • A retrofit reporting requirement is triggered if consignees owning or leasing tank cars covered under this rulemaking do not meet the initial retrofit milestone.
  • The Canadian schedule is slightly faster (by about 7 months) because of the smaller-sized fleets and previous commitments
  • Tank cars designated for Ethanol services are assigned a slower schedule for retrofit or phase-out.
  • *HHFT: High Hazard Flammable Train: High-hazard flammable trains” (HHFT) which means “a continuous block of 20 or more tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid or 35 or more tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid dispersed through a train.

Reduced Operating Speeds:

  • Restrict all HHFTs to 50-mph in all areas.
  • Require HHFTs that contain any tank cars not meeting the enhanced tank car standards required by this rule operate at a 40-mph speed restriction in high-threat urban areas defined the Transportation Security Administration’s regulations at 49 CFR 1580.3.
  • Require HHFTs to have in place a functioning two-way EOT device or a DP braking system.
  • Require any high-hazard flammable unit train (HHFUT)1 transporting at least one PG I flammable liquid be operated with an ECP braking system by January 1, 2021.
  • Require all other HHFUTs be operated with an ECP braking system by May 1, 2023.
  • **HFFUT:  “high-hazard flammable unit train” (HHFUT) means a train comprised of 70 or more loaded tank cars containing Class 3 flammable liquids traveling at greater than 30 mph.

More Accurate Classification of Unrefined Petroleum-Based Products:

  • Document sampling and testing program for all unrefined petroleum-based products, such as crude oil.
  • Certify that programs are in place, document the testing and sampling program outcomes, and make information available to DOT personnel upon request.

Rail routing – Risk Assessment:

  • Railroads operating HHFTs would be required to perform a routing analysis that considers, at a minimum, 27 safety and security factors and select a route based on its findings. These planning requirements are prescribed in 49 CFR § 172.820.

Rail routing – Notification:

  • Ensures that railroads notify State and/or regional fusion centers, and that State, local and tribal officials who contact a railroad to discuss routing decisions are provided appropriate contact information for the railroad in order to request information related to the routing of hazardous materials through their jurisdictions.

For more information, please review the entire Final Rule on Flammable Liquids by Rail, the Summary developed by DOT, and DOTs Press Release.

Please contact us if we can answer any questions for you on this latest rulemaking. (844) 88-STARS or (844) 887-8277;

April 23, 2015: (SA) Information Requirements For Transportation of Class 3 Flammable Liquids

A safety advisory is being issued  by FRA and PHMSA as a reminder to railroads that are operating a "high hazard flammable train" (HHFT) that in the event of an accident PHMSA and/or FRA personnel may require certain information during the course of the investigation.

— and thus should be provided as expeditiously as possible, upon request:

  •  Information on the train consist, including the train number, locomotive(s),locomotives as distributed power, end-of-train device information, number andposition of tank cars in the train, tank car reporting marks, and the tank carspecifications and relevant attributes3 of the tank cars in the train.
  • Waybill (origin and destination) information
  • The Safety Data Sheet(s) (SDS), or any other document used to provide comprehensive emergency response and incident mitigation information.
  • Results of any product testing undertaken prior to transportation that was used to properly characterize the Class 3 flammable liquids for transportation (initial testing).
  • Results from any analysis of product samples (taken prior to being offered into transportation) from tank car(s) involved in the derailment.
  • Date of acceptance as required to be noted on shipping papers under 49 CFR §174.24.
  • If a flammable liquid is involved, the type of liquid and the name and location of the company extracting the material.4
  • The identification of the company having initial testing performed (sampling and analysis of material) and information on the lab (if external) conducting the analysis.
  • Name and location of the company transporting the material from well head to loading facility or terminal.
  • Name and location of the company that owns and that operates the terminal or loading facility that loaded the product for rail transportation.
  • Name of the Railroad(s) handling the tank car(s) at any time from point of origin to destination and a timeline of handling changes between railroads.

A high hazard train can either be a train that is comprised of 20 or more tank cars that are loaded with Class 3 flammable liquid in a continuous block or a train comprised of 35 or more tank cars loaded with Class 3 flammable liquids across the entire train.

Hazardous Materials: Information Requirements Related to the Transportation of Trains Carrying Specified Volumes of Flammable Liquids

September 9, 2014: (NPRM) Securement of Unattended Equipment

The Federal Railroad Administration is proposing to amend the current brake system safety standards for freight and other non-passenger trains and equipment. The proposed changes would strengthen the requirements relating to the securement of unattended equipment. The FRA is planning to codify many of the requirements that are already included in the Emergency Order 28, Establishing Additional Requirements for Attendance and Securement of Certain Freight Trains and Vehicles on Mainline Track or Mainline Siding Outside of a Yard or Terminal. The proposed amendment focuses primarily on trains that transport poisonous by inhalation hazardous materials or large volumes of Division 2.1 (flammable gases), Class 3 (flammable or combustible liquids) and Class 1.1 or 1.2 (explosives) hazardous materials and will include additional securement requirements for unattended equipment. In addition, the FRA is proposing requirements on all locomotives that are left unattended outside a yard to be equipped with an operative exterior locking mechanism. Attendance on trains would be required on equipment not capable of being secured in accordance with the proposed and existing requirements.
Written comments are being accepted until November 10, 2014. The FRA anticipates being able to resolve this rulemaking without a public hearing. However, if a specific request for a public hearing is made before October 9, 2014 a hearing will be scheudled and the FRA will publish a supplemental document in the Federal Register to inform any interested parties of the date, time and location of that hearing.

To read the entire proposed rule and obtain information on where to submit your comments please visit Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 174 /

April 09, 2014: FRA to Issue Proposed Rule on Minimum Train Crew Size

The Federal Railroad Administration announced a proposed rule that would require two-person crews on crude oil trains and intends to establish minimum crew size standards for most passenger rail and main line freight cars. Although the current FRA regulations do not specify a minimum number of crew staff, the industry practice is generally to have at least two crew members on over-the-road operations.

Following the Lac-Megantic derailment last summer the Department of Transportation requested three Railroad Safety Advisory Committee Working Groups hold an emergency meeting to evaluate and consider proposals that would further enhance railroad safety. The deliberations focused on appropriate train crew size, securement and hazardous materials issues. Two of the Working Groups succeeded in producing recommendations that were accepted by the full RSAC. These recommendations will be considered in future rulemaking. In addition, the full RSAC also approved four other recommendations that focused on identification, classification, operational control and handling of certain shipments.
To read the full article click here