Federal agencies Rail Transportation

FRA seeks to delay implementation of training for safety-related railroad workers

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Washington — In response to a petition for rulemaking, the Federal Railroad Administration is seeking to further delay by 16 months the implementation dates of its proposed Training, Qualification, and Oversight for Safety-Related Railroad Employees regulation.

In November 2014, FRA published a final rule establishing minimum training standards for all categories and subcategories of safety-related railroad workers. The rule also required railroad carriers, contractors and subcontractors to submit training programs to FRA for approval. The rule was required by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

In a notice of proposed rulemaking published in the Nov. 22 Federal Register, FRA is seeking an amendment to the proposal, extending the implementation deadlines for all contractors, as well as Class II and Class III railroads that are not intercity or commuter passenger railroads with 400,000 or more total annual employee work hours. Railroads would have to submit their training programs to FRA by May 1, 2021 – instead of Jan. 1 – under the proposed amendment.

In addition, FRA is proposing a deadline of Jan. 1, 2022, for designating a worker’s occupational category or subcategory (the current proposed deadline is Sept. 1, 2020), and the start of the first three-year refresher training cycle would be Dec. 31, 2025 (currently marked for Dec. 31, 2024).

In July, the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association and the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association Inc. filed a petition seeking a two-year delay or for FRA to indefinitely suspend the implementation dates while the agency considers a previous petition filed by the two associations, but FRA did not grant the request.

“FRA’s proposed response is specifically targeted to equalize the implementation dates for those employers most likely to adopt model programs rather than develop their own programs,” the agency states in the NPRM, adding that it is considering whether to initiate a separate rulemaking that would be limited to amending its training regulation “so that the regulatory text includes the latest guidance that is intended to help small entities and other users of model training programs.

 

“Thus, without any changes to the implementation dates, the targeted employers might not understand that the regulation contains more flexibility than is commonly understood or they may not feel comfortable following the guidance believing there is regulatory uncertainty.”

FRA previously delayed the implementation dates for one year on May 3, 2017, and April 27, 2018.

“We are pleased that FRA has re-evaluated the implementation timeline for our small-business railroads and railroad suppliers,” ASLRRA President Chuck Baker told RailwayAge.com in a report published Nov. 22. “We have been working diligently to create new training programs that will meet the needs of our members and the regulations.”

The deadline to comment on the NPRM is Dec. 23.

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