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FRA funds two grants to mitigate risk among short line railroads hauling hazardous materials

(Source: Federal Railroad Administration press release, August 22, 2014)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federal Railroad Administration today funded two grants totaling $350,000 to support development of a Short Line Safety Institute. The Institute will help mitigate risk associated with shipping hazardous materials by rail by working to improve the culture of safety within the short line and regional rail industry while improving its overall safety record.

“Nearly half of all short line and regional railroads handle some type of hazardous materials, and today’s grants will play an important role in ensuring those materials and all shipments reach their destination safely,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These grants are just the latest step in our comprehensive approach to improving the safe transport of crude oil and other hazmat by rail.”

The primary purpose of the Institute will be to conduct safety compliance assessments to measure compliance with federal safety standards and safety culture assessments to evaluate the steps each railroad is taking to promote safe practices internally. In addition, the Institute will provide safety education, training and development to managers and employees. Assessors from the Institute will visit member railroads, evaluate safety compliance and safety culture and document their findings in a written report. The Institute will also provide education, training and employee development following the assessments.

“Although the Short Line Industry has an excellent safety record overall, we owe it to the public and the industry to drive continuous safety improvement,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “These grants are a first step in assisting the industry to further identify and contain risks.”

Short line railroads serve as a feeder system for the larger Class I carriers, picking up or delivering one out of every four rail cars moving on the national rail network. More than 550 short line and regional railroads operate in 49 states and bring rail service to thousands of communities that would otherwise not be connected to the nation's mainline railroad system. As short line railroads are much smaller than Class I Railroads, many of them lack the resources to carry out the same kind of robust safety training and enforcement on their own that Class I carriers perform.

Today’s announcement includes a $250,000 grant to the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) to begin the pilot phase of safety culture assessments. Pilot testing will begin in January 2015 and will initially focus on the safety of crude oil transportation by rail. With the grant money, ASLRRA will:

• Conduct a comprehensive review of the existing safety programs on short line and regional railroads (e.g., compliance requirements of FRA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration);

• Use tools developed by the University of Connecticut to identify areas of non-compliance and help railroads develop a culture of commitment to railroad safety; and

• Provide access to effective safety training processes, programs and resources.

• Develop large libraries of training tools, technical materials and other educational resources to assist small railroads in instilling a culture of safety.

The University of Connecticut also received a $100,000 grant to conduct initial work that will focus on the development, testing and validation of safety education, training and development for managers and employees.

Short lines and regional railroads account for 31 percent of U.S. freight rail mileage and 10 percent of industry employees. There are more than 550 short line and regional railroads operate in every U.S. state except Hawaii and often feed traffic to Class I railroads and receive traffic from Class I railroads for final delivery.

Monday, August 25, 2014

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