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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

AAR to FRA: Emergency regs for freight-train length unnecessary

Ian Jefferies is president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads.
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In an Oct. 12 letter to Federal Railroad Administrator Amit Bose, Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ian Jefferies said "there is no emergency" when it comes to the safety of freight trains that are longer than 7,500 feet.

Jefferies wrote to Bose in response to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen's (BLET) Oct. 9 request that the Federal Railroad Administration implement an emergency order to limit freight-train lengths to a maximum of 7,500 feet. Train size and length have been cited in recent derailments in Alabama, Pennsylvania and Ohio, BLET National President Eddie Hall noted in his letter to Bose.

But in his own letter to Bose, Jefferies noted that railroads "have safely operated millions of trains in excess of 7,500 feet over the last eight decades." And during that time, railroad safety has improved, Jefferies added.

"Railroads employ a variety of strategies to ensure safe train operations, including train marshaling rules that guide train build and the use of distributed power to manage in-train forces, taking into account factors such as the grades on terrain," the AAR letter states.

The letter also describes the advanced technology railroads used to control long trains and reduce in-train forces, as well as the required training for locomotive engineers to demonstrate proficiency in train operations.

Moreover, recent studies that have examined train length — including one by the U.S. Government Accountability Office — "have not found a relationship with safety," the AAR letter states.

Decades of trains operating at longer than 7,500 support their safety, Jefferies wrote.

"Taking emergency regulatory action would not improve safety. It would, however, create operational havoc and negatively impact existing customer arrangements," he added.

Jefferies' entire letter can be read here.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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