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Rail News: Positive Train Control

FRA proposes amendments to PTC regulations

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has proposed amendments to positive train control (PTC) regulations, according to a notice of proposed rulemaking published in the Federal Register on Dec. 11.

The amendments would revise regulatory provisions related to a "de minimis" exception to the installation of PTC systems and applications to yard-related movements. The proposed rulemaking also would revise existing regulations related to en route failures of a PTC system and discontinuances of signal systems once a PTC system is installed, and make additional technical amendments to regulations governing grade crossing warning systems and signal systems, including PTC systems.

In an April 2011 petition, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) requested that the FRA initiate a rulemaking to propose expanding the de minimis exception, and amend rules concerning the limited operations exception, en route failures of trains operating within PTC systems and the discontinuance of signal systems once PTC systems were installed. The AAR also asked the FRA to develop a new exception that would allow unequipped trains associated with certain yard operations to operate within PTC systems.

In response to the petition, the FRA now proposes to make several changes to the de minimis exception, such as modifying the specific exception to raise the number of freight cars containing poison-by-inhalation materials from 100 cars to 200 cars and revising the grade limitation to be more consistent with the definition of "heavy grade."

The FRA also proposes to remove the traffic limitation of 15 million gross tons from the general exception, but not the categorical exception. In response to AAR's suggestions for a yard move exception, the FRA proposes to add a yard movement de minimis exception that would authorize movements by unequipped locomotives over PTC-equipped mainline track segments for the purpose of switching service or transfer train movements.

However, the FRA does not plan to create an additional limited operations exemption, remove oversight from signal system discontinuances or modify the default rules for resolving en route failures of a PTC system. The agency proposes to clarify that PTC equipment of non-controlling locomotives may be used to restore full PTC functionality to the consist.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/12/2012