Federal agencies Rail Transportation

FRA revises regs on roadway worker protection, maintenance machine

Metra train
Photo: BeyondImages/iStockphoto

Washington — The Federal Railroad Administration has finalized amendments to a pair of regulations related to roadway worker safety and on-track roadway maintenance machines and hi-rail vehicles.

According to a final rule published in the March 17 Federal Register, the revisions stem from a review of 49 CFR Part 214. FRA has amended Subpart C of the regulation to allow for the use of “alternative security standards that provide multifactor authentication” on electronic display systems used to view track authority information. For example, a password or a biometric factor – such as a fingerprint – could be used in combination with a software or hardware token.

“More secure authentication methods … would make it more difficult for any malicious actors to access track authority information, and thus more difficult to interfere with roadway work,” FRA says.

When a worker or group establishes exclusive track occupancy working limits, an electronic display device is used to view track authority information. The revision to “Level 3 assurance,” as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, updates the regulation from 2013 standards.


In Subpart D – On-Track Roadway Maintenance Machines and Hi-Rail Vehicles, a new paragraph – 214.505(i) – exempts certain remotely operated roadway maintenance machines from existing heating, ventilation and air conditioning requirements for enclosed cabs. The final rule codifies a long-standing waiver to the regulation, which had been continually renewed for five-year periods since 2008.

FRA says it received two comments on its notice of proposed rulemaking – published in the Dec. 11, 2020, Federal Register – both supportive of the proposal.

“Standards incorporated by reference pose challenges both for railroads and regulators alike as they often quickly become outdated,” the Association of American Railroads and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association stated in a joint comment on the NPRM. “FRA’s approach [in the NPRM] does not substantively change the electronic authentication technology that can be used by railroads and avoids the need for unnecessary waivers from obsolete standards.”

The second comment, from a member of the public, suggested that the proposals would allow for the use of new technology and improve safety.

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