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Talking Freight: Freight Rail Safety

June 17, 2015

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Nicole Coene

Good Afternoon or Good Morning to those of you on the West. Welcome to the Talking Freight Seminar Series. My name is Nicole Coene and I will moderate today's seminar. Today's topic is Freight Rail Safety.

Before I go any further, I do want to let those of you who are calling into the teleconference for the audio know that you need to mute your computer speakers or else you will be hearing your audio over the computer as well.

Today we have three presentations, given by:

Mr. Karl Alexy has been the staff director for the FRA Office of Safety since May 2012. He was an engineer and manager of the Tank Car Program for the division for three years previous. Prior to the FRA, he worked for DuPont as a Fleet Manager and Engineer over design and compliance equipment materials and hazardous transportation via rail, portable tanks, and cargo tanks. Mr. Alexy has degrees in Biology from Bloomberg University and in Civil Engineering from Drexel University.

Mr. Jeff Moller is the Assistant Vice President of Transportation, Systems, and Practices at the Association of American Railroads where he originates and facilitates industry activities designed to increase the safety, security, and efficiency of railroad operations. He is also a member of many committees and task forces including the Railroads Operations Task Force and the AAR Medical and Operating Rules Committees. He was also the chairman of the 2008 International Railway Safety Conference.

Ms. Jo Strang is the Vice President of Safety and Regulatory Policy for the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association. She is the former Associate Administrator for Rail Safety and Chief Officer for the Federal Railroad Administration. She is a presidential rank award recipient.

Today's seminar will last 90 minutes, with 60 minutes allocated for the speakers, and the final 30 minutes for audience Question and Answer. If during the presentations you think of a question, you can type it into the chat area. Please make sure you send your question to "Everyone" and indicate which presenter your question is for. Presenters will be unable to answer your questions during their presentations, but I will start off the question and answer session with the questions typed into the chat box. If we run out of time and are unable to address all questions we will attempt to get written responses from the presenters to the unanswered questions.

The PowerPoint presentations used during the seminar are available for download from the file download box in the lower right corner of your screen. The presentations will also be available online within the next few weeks, along with a recording and a transcript. I will notify all attendees once these materials are posted online.

Talking Freight seminars are eligible for 1.5 certification maintenance credits for AICP members. In order to obtain credit for today's seminar, you must have logged in with your first and last name or if you are attending with a group of people you must type your first and last name into the chat box. I have included more detailed instructions in the file share box on how to obtain your credits after the seminar.

For those of you, who are not AICP members but would like to receive PDH credits for this webinar, please note that FHWA does not formally offer PDHs, however, it may be possible to receive PDHs for your participation in Talking Freight if you are able to self-certify. To possibly receive PDHs, please download the agenda from the file download box and submit this agenda to your respective licensing agency. Finally, I encourage everyone to please also download the evaluation form from the file share box and submit this form to me after you have filled it out. I'm now going to turn it over to Karl Alexy.

Karl Alexy
I'm going to talk about the FRA. The first thing I want to talk about is Office of Safety. We are the enforcement branch of the Federal Railroad Administration. We have over 400 people that are inspectors scattered across the country in eight different regions. We also have an additional 165 inspectors that are state inspectors and are trained alongside FRA inspectors. We have a number of inspection disciplines. The primary inspection disciplines are track, bridge and structures. Now, bridge and structures also includes rail integrity. So the track is looking at the alignment of the track as well as the ballast and the ties. Where the bridge and structure and of course the infrastructure of the rail is looking at internal rail flaws. Signal and train control and next to that is our positive train group. We then have motive power and equipment, operating practices, and my group, hazardous materials. FRA and many parts of the DOT work really hard on issues regarding highway rail crossing safety. We work closely with FHWA on that. We work with FTA on the commuter rail safety and of course FMCSA and TSA on the hazmat materials transportation safety. Standing back and looking at the FRA mission, is to enable safe, reliable, and efficient movement of people and goods for strong America. Our vision supply put is moving America forward. This slide gives you a good idea of the progress that the industry has made. I do want to point out that this is not FRA, it is the entire industry. Jeff and Joe will talk about what they have done for safety, but rail by itself is the safest mode and it continues to improve in safety.

This slide is broken down into human factors, the cause of the problem. This includes the equipment, running gear, signals, and miscellaneous, which could be a number of things. You get sense that the trend is going in the right direction. It is flattening out and as we continue to improve, we run up against the law of diminishing returns and so we push forward and continue to make those improvements that toward that downward slope. Going back to the Office of Safety, about us, we have exclusive jurisdiction over railroad safety. We carry out federal railroad safety laws and all railroad related accidents. This includes promulgating and enforcing all railroad rules. On the hazmat side, FMSCA promulgates the rules and the FRA has primary authority to enforce these rules. The FRA also administers railroad assistant programs. We conduct research and development to support and improve rail safety and national transportation policy. We provide assistance to the Northeast Corridor rail passenger service. We work hard to implement high speed and intercity passenger rail to connect communities and economic centers across the country.

We also have a number of tools that we use. With we have defects and deficiencies, we can identify that they are defective conditions but they do not rise to the level of a critical issue that we acknowledge or something that can be fixed right then. We just note that there was a defect. We have violations which are civil penalties. We have individual liabilities for railroad employees, compliance orders, and agreements for larger companywide issues or problems. They are having a hard time complying with the regulation so we enter into compliance agreements with these companies.

We have emergency orders and numerous amounts have come out of Alaska within the last couple of years related to both passenger train service and hazardous materials. We have special notices for repair, advisories, and rail worthiness directed and specifically related to the hazardous materials regulations. I am going to talk about transportation of hazardous materials. That is one of the big initiatives in the FRA, moving the material by rail. This picture is from Heimdahl, North Dakota. There were 6 cars derailed and 5 were involved and lost products that were impinged by this fire. It gives you an idea of the nature of these events when they occur. What you are going to hear throughout my presentation is that safety is improving. We have these very news worthy events consisting of fires, fireballs and safety evacuations is sort of the difference and what we are transporting now.

Over the last number of decades, there has been a steady decrease in accidents and casualties. Some statistics in train accident in1978 there were 11,000 of them. In 2014 there were about 1,700. In railroad employees, fatalities which are very important in 1978 alone there were 122 fatalities and last year there were 10. These are the type of things that we see that the industry is making improvement and safety. Another is to train vehicle collisions and highway grade crossing that have decreased from over 1000 in 1978 to 267 and 2014. The train accident rate in 2004 was 4.4 train accidents per for 1,000,000 train miles and it is now down to 1.2 accidents for 1,000,000 train miles. This is indicative to improve safety. What we have done at FRA has taken the position that we need to take a risk base approach, by trying to identify the risky areas or the high risk issues and address those as quickly as possible.

The next couple of slides -- all of this has happened and improvement continues. All of the while, we are seeing this significant growth in the transportation of hazardous material. I will go to the next slide quickly. A few years ago, a decade ago today we had hazmat in trains. And now today, we have trains of the hazmat, ethanol in the late 2000 and crude oil in the late 2012. So this is a whole different set of issues that the railroads are dealing with or the industry is dealing with. We're all familiar with the incident that happened in July of 2013, where the train rolled away and derailed approximately at 60-70 mph and was a loss of 6 million gallons and 47 people, unfortunately, were killed in that incident. A lot of people think that that is what sparked the training and changes in safety, but there had been a lot of work done before that. However, it certainly a raised an international awareness of the risk of moving this material and volume at one time.

Since then, there have been some emergency orders and safety advisories that have been issued by the department and agencies FRA and FMSA. To the finer point on what I said it gives you an idea of the growth of crude oil and ethanol has occurred. While ethanol has leveled off, it is still a large portion of the hazmat that is shipped in the United States. You can see that crude oil is growing and whether it will continue is yet to be seen, but it is an amazing amount that is being moved by railway.

The next big issue or initiative is dealing with the grade crossing safety and trespass prevention. Sarah Feinberg has made this a key priority for her. We have to reduce the number of fatalities. It is an ongoing struggle that we also we as industry are trying to address. Acting Administrator Feinberg, it has become so important and that she has put our senior executives on this issue and is pushing this. In fact Jamie Renner who is an executive here in of our Office of Safety, she is reaching out to all of the class ones to find out what they get and what they can do and brainstorm best practices. Another thing is reaching out to different sources. This group is a perfect example. For traditional and nontraditional groups that have innovative ideas. What can we do? We have different outreach programs and that type of thing, but we believe we can be more effective and we want new innovative ways and doing that. That is a general overview of the initiatives that we have.

For grade crossing specific initiatives, the collisions all over demonstrate how severe and fatal these can be and at the same time they are avoidable. In February of this year, FRA launched a new campaign to strengthen enforcement and safety awareness at the railway grade crossings. Phase one is to reach out to local law enforcement. This would allow the police departments asking them to show greater presentation at the crossings. Officers can use citations to drivers and implement best practices. Phase two is to employ better uses of technology. That gets back to the nontraditional way of doing things. Anyway we can to improve public awareness of grade crossing which includes distracted driving and making partnerships with local and state agencies. Finally, we are getting more funding for these efforts. The next slide, gives an idea of what we're looking at as far as grade crossing and trespassing fatalities. On the freight line, you can see the numbers -- I will not read them off to you -- there is a significant number. The interesting thing is that for decades the fatalities have all been right here at crossing and trespassing facilities and that has really been the problem. I certainly did not think that before I came to the FRA but what effect this has on the engineer and the locomotive. It has lasting effects on them and there is a struggle there as well. It is important for all kinds of reasons.

Here are some demographic of what is happening as far as trespassing goes. They are much younger than the national norms. The average age at death is approximately 38 and 82% of them are males. Drugs and alcohol are associated with approximately half of them and one quarter of them were suicide. It is good information, but now how do we address it and get to the issue. Here is a schematic of our approach. We have the three E's: Education, Enforcement, and Engineering. Education is increasing the awareness to increase safety both behind the wheel and on foot. There are many educational programs that are very helpful. We're using those for a large extent right now. Engineering, we are promoting modern engineering to develop new technologies and effective ways to keep grade crossing safe. Again this goes back to innovation and new technology. Finally, enforcement to make sure that the railways are in place to keep people safe at the crossing areas. It is important to get back to your local agencies about their enforcement efforts.

Now on to positive train control, it obviously has been in the news for some time. It was highlighted not long ago, with the tragedy in Philadelphia. This is basically, a schematic of the architecture of positive train control (PTC). In FRA's mind, PTC represents a fundamental operation for more than 80 years. It really can get to preventing or mitigating human factors accidents. We do know the overwhelming majority of the railroads will not meet the December 31, 2015 deadline and we are working with the strategy to deal with that. FRA will be submitting a report to the appropriations committee on the status of the systems. There are programmatic obstacles affecting PTC deployment and those were identified in the 2012 report to Congress. Many of those still exist and are trying to overcome them. We have the Grow American Act to improve investment in railroad safety by 45%. This would give FRA the flexibility to help railroads move forward with PTC implementation. For 2016, FRA is requesting funding to support and implement PTC by Amtrak and commuter railroads. A little bit of background or interesting information, as indicated a couple minutes go, the scale and complexity is unprecedented. There are numerous issues that I talked about earlier and currently Amtrak's Northeast Corridor is equipped with a functional PTC system. The full implementation will depend on the freight railroad. The majority of the class ones, right now, it looks like it might be a couple of years 2017 and even out to 2020 before full implementation will occur.

The next slide is the confidential close call reporting system. This schematic is interesting to look at, the way we talk about it, is if you chip the ice off of this iceberg, it would float up. So were trying to get at these major fatalities but the best way to do it is to reduce the iceberg that was exposed to chip away at the bottom. We believe we can do that with the close call reporting system and people can do that without fear of retribution you should. They can contact the system and report the incident and helps us to identify potential issues. We continue to build up this database where we can see these areas of concerns are and need to be fixed. It is an ongoing effort and important to our administrator and in the Office of Safety. This is my contact information. If you would like to get in touch with me here is the information. Nicole, I am finished.

Nicole Coene

We will now move on to Jeff Moller with AAR.

Jeff Moller

I'll just give a very brief introduction of our association. These are the logos; some are very well know and some are small. When most people think of an Association they think lobbyists. We are a little bit unique. We do more than that because we set industry standards, represent the industry that is somewhat lobbying and we also but do a lot of work with FRA and other regulatory agencies. We recreate data and so forth. The Federal Railroad Administration presides over the DOT-owned research facility out in Pueblo, Colorado and we are the main tenant there and we do a lot of research there into rail safety longevity and so on. We also have a major IT department that keeps track of all the rail cars floating around the country as to what is in them, where they are going, and where they will end up.

It's important to understand that railroads are a network. You can load a rail car in Northern Canada and ship it to Mexico. All the standards are the same. We are fairly seamless except for Customs activities. After 9-11 there have been a little more issues with customs. There are seven Class I railroads, but there are many smaller railroads that you can see by the mileage that play a major role of moving the traffic across the country. Sometimes I see from time to time that people do not understand is that we are a private network. We own the track, we own and operate the traffic control systems, and we own much of the equipment that travels over the track. There is a lot of collaboration between carriers to make sure that the cars go where they need to and if the cars break down that they get fixed. There is not a lot of government funding for this either.

We own the infrastructure and we own the terminals and we control the operation. So we are different from some of the other modes of transport. Here is some of our revenue. Coal was king for decades but now intermodal is our biggest source of revenue but there are other areas. We are a very good barometer for the economy. You can see the traffic really suffering from a major setback in 2008. Things have been softening in the last couple of months. As Karl was doing his presentation I wanted to read some of the questions so let me respond to a couple of them right now. One question was, "Does the improved safety performance of employee injuries and so on are related to fewer persons?" To some extent one might say that but if you look at the traffic and if you look at the fact that we have been doing some heavy hiring for almost 10 years now to increase certain groups of employees mainly those that operate the trains. I don't know if fewer employees is the case. I think we are just generally working really hard on safety and showing improvements.

Another question was: "Is rail the safest mode, what about air and water? Air is for higher value lighter weight items such as iPods. Water transportation is a major part of our economy but it does not go everywhere. There are just some places that you can go. On to the next slide, this one shows how much money we put back into the network every year. It is important to point out that in 2008 our traffic slumped, we may have scaled back a little of spending but not a whole lot. The reason for that was when 30 years ago when the Staggers Act was enacted our executives concluded that our industry had a bright future. There is a future for rail and even though it is slumping a bit it is going to come back and by gosh we are going to build and get ready for when it comes. I will go into the safety right here. It is kind of nice that every year we are the safest in some categories and these so happened to be in 2014. I will point out too that there are very rigorous reporting requirements that have to be reported to the FRA. For example, a reportable train accident is any event that causes $10,500 of damage to track and equipment. Therefore, almost everything is reported. The FRA has inspectors who perform audits and will assess fines if a railroad is not reporting properly.

I think it is one of the best if not the best. These are some of the key factors that you can see there. You hear a lot about the oil trains. If you look at where the risks in the industry are, a lot are out of our control. Trespassers fatalities used to be the about same as crossing fatalities but now they are higher. A trespasser is not supposed to be on the track. I could show 40 or 50 different slides. But this is certainly representative. It is a broad area that shows improved direction. We are not satisfied; we are plateauing from years past. If I went back to 1980 do it the decline would be far more dramatic as the industry became more economically viable. There is a lot of stuff at work to keep this graph flowing in the right direction. Track is something that we hear about a lot so why not take a look at that one too. Human factors were not declining as fast as others. Human factors have become I think the largest single cause because so many of the other causes go down. But even in this category we are showing good progress. Let's look at where the risks are at grade crossings. We have on crossing safety by installing signal equipment, gates, lights, etc. etc. Within 14 years we have closed many crossing and added more gates. There are more benefits there. Obviously warning signals are installed at the crossings with higher risk and how better to illustrate it than to show how many mishaps occur at crossings that are signalized. It is something we are working on. June 6 was the International Level Crossing Awareness Day. This is a world-wide phenomenon to hold publicity activities to bring forth the awareness. To give you an idea of the challenge, in Halifax North Carolina a couple months ago a passenger train struck a huge trailer that was stuck on the tracks. It could not get off the track and on to a major highway because the trailer was excessively long. The driver was accompanied by a police car and I understand he was stuck there for about 15 minutes. There was an emergency telephone number posted at the crossing that they could have called which apparently no one knew about. This could have been avoidable if people were aware of crossing safety issues.

We talk about trespassers and I would like to point out to people is that just because you got hit by a train, doesn't mean a person is always killed. Some people that are hit by trains are injured very badly and I try to get that message across to the younger people who don't pay attention to the hazard or doing away with themselves or something. 526 people killed at crossings in most recent data and a lot more struck. I will touch a little bit on hazmat. There is a lot of work underway and the trends are in the right direction with a couple of glitches along the way. This is hazmat accident rates. These are the number of train accidents with release per 1000 carloads. The next slide I am going to show you is different. This is a hazardous incident release. We have a reporting category called a non-accident release. This is where a car will leak because it was not properly closed up but the loading facility or the pressure valve failed on it. These probably have less impact on the public. They certainly have an impact on us and our employees though. We are working on that as well.

We will get into a little bit of research. ASTI is a euphemism for Advanced Technology Safety Initiative. This is kind of an interesting process that addresses such as broken rails, wheel bearing failures or so called hot boxes etc. We have had way-side inspection devices along the tracks for decades that will tell if there is an overheated wheel bearing. Now technology is so advanced we now have new kinds of devices out there that can really see what's going on with the car. We can see if the train has an oblong wheel which it can really pound the wheel. Imagine a car weighing 286,000 pounds divided by each wheel and how much force is on each wheel and if that wheel is pounding on the rail it can literally break the rail in some extreme cases. Overheated wheel bearings are self-explanatory. If the wheel bearing fails the car can collapse on the rail and cause a serious accident.

Truck hunting, over marginal track such as in yards could place lateral forces on the rail causing wear or forcing it outward. The point is, in the past a detector would only warn against an immediate risk and report to the crew, "stop your train you've got a problem." Now inspection devices are linked to a communications network and every car has a device on it called an automatic identifying tag that the car number on it. So if we have a car that is showing a deteriorated condition it is linked to this network and can be spotted for repair long before it fails. You can see broken rail accidents have had significant improvements. Wheel bearing accidents showing a declining trend and truck hunting has been engineered out of the system. This is an example of many things we are working on. I'll just such on another. Go ahead and slip to the last slide. We are doing a lot worldwide research on railroad defect detection. A rail is fabricated in a factory and then it goes to an inspection but then it gets out on a right of way and it is used. On the inside there may be a tiny defect from the steel mill is in there that might lead to a failure 10, 15 to 20 years. Things are very hard to see and the cracking can promulgate very quick. All sorts of endeavors underway to improve detection including what we consider continuous inspection. One railroad have a waiver out right now where they can have devices on some of their locomotives where every time the locomotive rolls it is checking certain conditions of the track and we expect to see a lot more of that. I'll move forward and let Jo take over.

Jo Strang

At the ASLRRA, we are a trade association whose membership is comprised of Class II and III railroads, Switching and Terminal Roads. Those are small business railroads. The class III has 60 miles of track and 22 employees. We are different than the Class I that can be as big as 45,000 employees. But without us that does not work and I will talk about that. We represent small railroads and small independence businesses in front of the FRA and FTA. We do have Short Lines that carries passengers. We talk to the other regulatory agencies and what is important to us is how they regulate us.

Our member history to show some growth, after it started being regulated, numbers and strength took off. Short Lines were created in many parts of the country from lines that Class I sold. So in some parts of the country, for example New England, they are primarily Short Lined. But in others, there are Class I's and other Short Lines working together. If you look at how we have grown, we have 558 short lines, and we have about 18,000 employees and they put the link up there and this is the slide with the growth of route maps. We work with the Class I's and they get about 20%- 25% of revenues from Short Lines. This shows the illustration of growth in route miles. To show you have interconnected we are with the Class I's, this shows the number of connecting Shore Lines. You can see it varies across the country; every Class I railroad intersects with the short line. Maybe Class I's have more than one Class I connection. It could be that commodities are shipped. A good example of this is in Colorado, where there is a handoff to a smaller Short Line with two big ones where the Short Line became the bridge. This is just an illustration of what kind of commodities we can carry. You have seen the general trend has been and historically, Coal was king, but we have seen other products being moved throughout the United States. This is just an illustration of what parts of the country are doing and we were versus 2014. We have had some really big growth areas in the Eastern parts of the U.s and not as strong and the Western US. Our financial place of this is we make a lot of capital expenditures. We are mostly members with small businesses. We do have some large holding companies. They are very were situated in strong members. One thing that is very important to us is our investment in infrastructure the same way that the Class I's do. We have different investment profiles so what we rely on is federal tax credits where we can put our profits back into our railroads and to improve safety. (Slide 15) This is where we get our money. Most of it is just a cash flow as you can see there are some loans and grants. We have had some little success with DOT's Tiger Program and I hope it will continue so we have a good force.

These are before and after shots were you can see if you look to the side to the left you can see that the ballast is gone. The ties are deteriorated and the rails are rusty. On your right you see cleaner ties, very shiny rail, and nice ballast. It looks so much better and is going to be more productive because the accepted track on your left you can only creep along going under 10 mph. The track on your right would be good for a higher speed. These are further examples.

(Slide 22) This is where we are seeing a lot of growth which is in Natural gas and crude oil. Ethanol has fallen off for real demand, but it is fairly stable because of the work requirement. Next slide please. One of the things I want to focus on is what the Shore Lines are doing with help with the FRA Office of Research and Development on the Short Line Safety Institute. We want the short line institute to be leaders in safety. I think collectively we can if we all come together to help improve safety. One of things that are very important is a strong safety culture. You can have all of the rules and all of the requirements, but if you don't have a strong safety culture you are not going to be able to achieve great results and safety. Currently we have a grant that we received due to the large act of Congress. We're working pilot project and we have undertaken the development with UCONN and the Volpe Center of a safety culture assessment tool. We have trained assessors to go out on to shore line railroads to conduct interviews, observations, connect surveys, and pull together a comprehensive assessment of what safety culture on that short line railroad looks like. We're starting these efforts where the greatest conflict with the public is the transportation of crude oil. We have already undertaken 3 pilot inspections where we spend the last 3 days reviewing and revising our procedures as a result of the feedback we got during the pilot project and then we have another set of 3 for the next round of pilot projects. We hope to really start up the institute and get that moving where we will have a group of us go out to assist short line railroads in strengthening their safety cultures. For short line, the biggest area of concern is around grade crossing and trespassing facilities violation prevention. Last year there were 365 grade crossing accidents, 58 injuries and 26 fatalities. Trespassing grade crossings are the same for us as they are for the Class I railroads and for the FRA. It is hardest thing to control because our ROWs are largely unstaffed. A trespasser is a person who is on the ROW that should not be. It is private property. If you are not permitted to be there you are trespassing just as you should know on any other private property. On grade crossings it is more of an issue of how do we increase people's awareness that there is risk at a grade crossing? Operation lifesaver is a great organization that their sole mission is to raise awareness about where there are issues on grade crossings and how to be safe. They have a campaign, See Tracks Think Trains, and they have lots of good public service announcements. But in an age of satellite radio how do you get PSA's out there that people will listen to? This becomes a challenge. We appreciate your support from this department and the FRA in our efforts there.

Questions & Answers

Nicole Coene

We will now go through some of the questions and comments that were provided in the chat.

During Carl's presentation, what are the units along the y-axis in your earlier presentation, accidents?

Karl Alexy

Yes they are accidents.

Nicole Coene

Jeff answered this question a little bit, but I wanted to the other presenters the chance to answer as well. Does the decrease in absolute numbers of rail employee injuries & fatalities have anything to do with the reduction over the years in the number of crew used to run trains and manage yards?

Karl Alexy

I thought that Jeff gave a very good answer. You may be able to attribute some of that -- the decrease in the number of railroad employees to the number of the fatalities, but like I said, Jeff's answer was good with the amount of traffic in the couple of slides that all three of us showed were incredible growth in traffic. We also had to deal with those issues as well as safety.

Jo Strang

I believe with both Karl and Jeff and I think the growth of traffic is how much effort we put in collectively for safety. The railroad is so focused on safety that each meeting that we have starts out with a safety briefing. It is something that is a part of the culture on every road across the U.S.

Nicole Coene

Thank you. Next question. Is the FRA safety and trespass test data available by state or even county? A link was provided during the presentation, but does anybody want to comment on that?

Jeff Moller

I think we can get it by state; I would have to check to see if it was available by county.

Nicole Coene

How does the failure of the freight railroads to meet the PTC deadline this year impact the continued operation of Amtrak's long-distance passenger trains, such as the "California Zephyr" and "Southwest Chief" on rural freight rail mainlines here in the interior west? Will a route not yet being equipped with PTC result in the discontinuance of a long distance passenger train using that route?

Karl Alexy

The best answer I can give is that this is an ongoing discussion about the implementation issues with PTC. I should not comment anymore on that because were dealing with that right now.

Nicole Coene

Thank you. For FRA slide 17, how is "accident" defined? Do minor derailments, sometimes indicative of poor track maintenance, figure at any level of the "iceberg"?

Karl Alexy

Jeff indicated that we have a reportable accident at 10,500. That is what triggers the reporting requirement for that, and for that now major versus minor accidents I'm not sure if there is a clear definition that we have internal on what makes one. A minor injury may be the dollar amount where as a major accident has injuries and fatalities.

Jo Strang

I'll be happy to help with that answer. A major accident is considered an accident with over $100,000,000 in damages.

Nicole Coene

Karl, can you address hazmat other than petroleum, from petrochemicals to chlorine and the attempts of local governments to regulate or prohibit movement?

Karl Alexy

Can I dress that? I don't know if I can. Here in DC, they successfully manage to prohibit certain commodities that through the city. They reached an agreement, a voluntary agreement.

Jeff Moller

For the benefit of the group carriers are obligated to handle any shipment that is properly tendered to them if it meets all of the requirements. The states do not have jurisdiction.

Nicole Coene

Now to the questions during Jeff's presentation, has AAR considered requiring self-steering bogeys for the DOT 117?

Jeff Moller

I am not aware of any. Self-steering bogeys are more advanced freight car assemblies. I am not aware that any of the accidents that we looked at had have been related to the performance of the truck.

Nicole Coene

What proportion of "trespassing" consists of people in vehicles at crossings, versus people on foot or in vehicles on or along track bed or in yards? Similarly, are more trespassing accidents the result of people getting hit by trains while walking the tracks or people illegally riding (freight) trains and injuring themselves when they try to "get off" the train?

Jo Strang

I will answer the second part of the question first. The majority of trespassers are in the right-of-way. They are standing or walking the right-of-way or the envelope around the ROW where you could be hit by equipment. There are people that are injured riding freight train illegally but they are not as numerous as people that are pedestrians along the ROW where they should not be.

Karl Alexy

If you are at a public crossing then you are categorized differently. A trespasser is someone that is where they should not be.

Nicole Coene

Jo, can you explain why the large holding companies that now own dozens/hundreds of short lines think of themselves as Class III, rather than II or even I (which it seems they'd be by virtue of revenue)?

Jo Strang

Actually they are not. Each railroad reports independent from combined holding company railroads. Unlike a Class I railroad which goes on its network from border to its border, these small short lines connect to Class I and their revenue is dependent on the businesses they generate independently of each other. So they're not treated as a network because they are not a network.

Nicole Coene

Thank you. Short line railroads include switching and terminal companies. If an industrial facility with an industrial rail spur employs a railroad engineer to drive a locomotive within their industrial park (moving cars, etc.), is that operation automatically a short line or do they have to "officially" report to FRA, ASLRRA, or some other agency to officially be a short line?

Jo Strang

The determination of a railroad is actually made by the FRA. That is if you are connected to the general railroad system and if you pick up any cars from anyone other than yourself. If you are in an industrial switching operation, and all you do is switch within your plant you would be considered a plant railroad. If you leave your plant and pick up cars for another industry and move them somewhere else then you would be considered a railroad. Karl, I don't know if you want to jump in and talk about this but if the surface transportation board gets involved in determining whether it is an entity or a plant operation.

Karl Alexy

Let's say if we have a plant operation with a steel mill, if there is a casualty in there they would be reporting to OSHA. The reports are still made it is just not a lost situation.

Nicole Coene

To all of the presenters, do you see natural gas as the next significant commodity moving on rail system and if so what are the hazards.

Jeff Moller

I know there is some gas that is being generated in the oil fields as part of the oil recovery process. I don't know if there is a long amount, I know there is interest in the area. We read reports about a year ago about how the gas is flared off and wasted somewhere. I am not aware of any big push in the immediate future to be shipping by rail. There is talk about using liquefied natural gases as a fuel for locomotives but not necessarily as a revenue commodity.

Karl Alexy

I can address that. There are 3 railroads that have come into FRA specifically for approval to move liquefied natural gas and portable tanks on flat cars and weld-cars. There is an interest and it is becoming more acute now. There are many deadlines for these folks to move goods and import domestically. The idea is to move it in large blocks or even unit trains.

Nicole Coene

We're getting close to the end of the chat. If anyone would like to ask any questions over the phone, press one to put yourself in the queue. My next two questions are related to crossings, Operation Lifesaver is a great group but I think they mainly work at crossings. Do most pedestrian trespassing accidents occur at the crossing or away from it? Does the industry have any programs to address private crossings? Or is the concern less because the crossing traffic volume is low?

Jo Strang

Operational lifesaver is a great route. They have a lot programs and a lot of a trespass service announcements that can download for free on their website oli.org and I encourage you to work with your community to get them shown. They have a great campaign "See Tracks Think Trains" and a great ad Man versus Machine is No Match on trespass prevention. Those are very good. I encourage everyone to work with your communities and get them out of there. The majority of trespass incidents do happen on the right-of-way and they are an issue at private crossings as well as public crossings. There is a whole other category that includes farm equipment and a lot of those occur at private crossings where the farmer has an arrangement with the railroads to have a crossing. Those accidents while they are not that common are sometimes due to heavy equipment that can create damage to multiple partners.

Nicole Coene

Thank you, Jo. In discussion with our railroad partners, we have heard that railroads must carry any product that they are permitted to haul. Is this an economic or a regulatory mandate?

Jo Strang

It is a regulatory mandate.

Nicole Coene

FRA: Is there a requirement for a professional engineer to review and accept an at-grade crossing condition during the state's review process? Who is ultimately responsible for at-grade crossing condition and if it meets FRA/FHWA requirements?

Jeff Moller

That is a good question. I do not believe there is a requirement for professional engineer. Jo, do you recall?

Jo Strang

Is there an at-grade crossing diagnostics team? Yes. There was a joint effort where people went out looked at how the road engineering and the railroad engineering work together or didn't. They also looked at a very important concept of signal preemption. I am sure most of you heard about the terrible accident in Foxriver, Illinois involving a school bus. They went out and did a thorough review to prevent other similar accidents like that not happening again.

Nicole Coene

Do the presenters attribute trespassing rates at all to land development/settlement changes (i.e., more people situated near rail infrastructure as town, cities and suburbs have been built out), increased road congestion, or unfamiliarity with RR operations (in many locations, RRs have recently revived or increased traffic)?

Jeff Moller

I can't answer that question directly. I have heard frustration that some planning doesn't really take into consideration the risk associated with a railroad, like putting a high school next to a railroad. It is a constant battle and we try to raise awareness of how best to handle things like this. It certainly must be a factor.

Nicole Coene

"Genesee & Wyoming (G&W) owns or leases 120 freight railroads worldwide THAT ARE ORGANIZED IN 11 OPERATING REGIONS with 7,700 employees and more than 2,500 customers." Sounds like they want to be seen as a network.

Jo Strang

The way that they operate is a little different. If you are just looking doing an internet research or reading promotional material, it may appear one way. Each of those railroads operates within the company as an independent entity. By many regulations that can't work cooperatively together.

Nicole Coene

Can you speak to the conflicts of passenger trains running on freight owned tracks? Is this a safety issue, or just an operational problem?

Jeff Moller

The word problem isn't necessarily the right word. It is an operational consideration. One of the main issues of passenger trains on a freight network is that the passenger train maybe operating at a different speed in order to make its schedule. That requires a lot of planning in order to keep the freight trains out of its way so it can operate over the network. I will add though as we talk more about high speed rail that industry really believes that when you are operating at the higher speeds, we believe that it is best to consider a separate network for that. The speed differentials between freight and passenger rail is so much higher and the chance of risk is certainly higher.

Nicole Coene

For FRA: Regarding PTC, what percent of railroads are expected to meet the December 31, 2015 implementation date and what actions will FRA take if railroads do not meet that date (assuming the deadline is not extended)?

Karl Alexy

In the presentation I indicated that Amtrak's Northeast Corridor is equip with a functional PTC system. I think there may be a couple of others. But as far as what actions? I think that came up in a previous question. That is an ongoing discussion that we are having internally and it would be difficult for me to respond to that.

Jeff Moller

I can add a little bit to the context of that question. It was mandated in 2008 after a very horrific accident. Since we are dealing with different types of trains at different speeds, we might have a train that has different loads at the back than the front, the breaking algorithms and so on. The magnitude of getting this thing done, first we have to bolt thousands of pounds on locomotives. We have to put in over 34,000 devices along the track that will indicate the position of a switch or things like that. We are going to have to put in over 4,000 radios. These radios did not exist in 2008. These are digital radios that are very specialized. All these things are underway. If you go to our website you can find a progress report on where we are right now for example, for the end of the year we will have trained 1/3 of the employees that are installing and maintaining the equipment now. We will have put in half of the radios and nearly half of the locomotives by the end of the year.

Nicole Coene

Karl. What is the best way to contact FRA for general or regulatory questions?

Karl Alexy

You can go to our website and submit questions that way. We get a lot of those. That is always good because of the response we get in writing we tend to be pretty good at responding quickly to those. Somebody looks at them and they get routed to the appropriate division.

Nicole Coene

That appears to be all the questions that we have. Thank you all for attending today's seminar. The recorded version will be available within the next few weeks on the talking freight website. The next seminar will be held on July 15 and the topic is tentatively scheduled to Jason's Law Truck Parking Study.

We did have one last question. For FRA: where rail movements originate or terminate beyond U.S. jurisdiction and if an accident has occurred warranting investigation of the arrangements & precautions at origin or en route, how as both a legal and a practical matter are investigations coordinated between U.S. & Canadian rail safety & accident investigators? Are there administrative agreements in place or "just" relying on 'commodity' and informal coordination & help?

Karl Alexy

The accidents that I have been involved with, it has been by and large informal where we interact with our counterparts up in Canada. I am not aware of any specific or formal arrangement that exist. I would ask Jo if she recalls any specific formal arrangement.

Jo Strang

Typically, no. There would not be involvement between the two organizations. Although, historically NTSB which is the primary investigatory body in the U.S, has asked the transportation safety board in Canada for assistance in one very unfortunate accident in which a NTSB employee was killed in a collision. The NTSB had a requirement to investigate a collision and they did not want to investigate the death of their own employee. So it does happen, but not very often.

Nicole Coene

AAR represents Class I's; ASLRRA represents Class III's; who represents Class II's?

Jo Strang

In short answer, we both do. They are members of both my organizations and Jeff's.

Nicole Coene

Has the FRA or other private agencies felt pressure from any local or state governments to alter or change regulations governing a railroads common carrier obligation given the relatively recent increase and focus on crude oil/ethanol?

Karl Alexy

I am unaware of it. I think by and large it would be an issue for the surface transportation board. Like I said, I am not aware of any pressure along those lines.

Nicole Coene

At this time, thank you for attending the seminar. The recording will be available within the next few weeks at the talking freight website. I will send out a notice and will send you the information. The next seminar will be held on July 15th and the tentative topic is Jason's Law Truck and Parking Study. I encourage everyone to join the Freight Planning Listserv if you have not already done so. Thank you again everyone and that concludes today's Talking Freight webinar thank you for attending.

Updated: 7/23/2015
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