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— by Pat Foran, editor
On May 1, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued its rule governing the movement of crude oil by rail, a rule Acting Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg characterized as the beginning of the next chapter in rail safety. Several crude-by-rail (CBR) stakeholders subsequently filed lawsuits or took other actions, contending the rule either goes too far or not far enough.
Then on May 12, eight passengers were killed and 200 were injured when an Amtrak train derailed on the Northeast Corridor near Philadelphia. The derailment refocused lawmaker and media attention on Amtrak funding and rail safety in general — including positive train control (PTC) and the timeline for freight and passenger railroads to implement it.
It remains to be seen whether the CBR rule truly represents a new rail-safety chapter, or if the fallout from the Amtrak derailment ultimately leads to safety improvements. To railroads, for example, the CBR rule’s electronically controlled pneumatic braking (ECP) system requirement isn’t about safety at all: It represents the next chapter (following PTC) in the unfunded mandate story — a tale that now carries a price tag that's well into the billions of dollars.
As for PTC: In an acknowledgment of implementation realities, a bill had been proposed in the Senate in March to extend the PTC deadline from year-end 2015 to 2020. In the wake of the Amtrak derailment, some lawmakers aren’t exactly champing at the bit to discuss a five-year extension. Expect the PTC deadline uncertainty to linger awhile longer. And anticipate more pushback from the rail industry regarding any PTC deadline fuzziness, as well as the ECP mandate.
[Update: On June 12, the Association of American Railroads filed an appeal with the USDOT urging the agency to close what AAR described as a gap in the CBR rule that "allows shippers to continue using tank cars not meeting new design specifications." The AAR also urged USDOT to remove the ECP requirement and asked the agency to "enhance thermal protection by requiring a thermal blanket as part of new tank-car safety design standards."]
The League of Railway Industry Women (LRIW) is seeking nominations for its 2015 "Outstanding Woman of the Year" award.
Any woman who works in the North American rail industry is eligible to receive the award, which is co-sponsored by Progressive Railroading.
Past winners include Alaska Railroad Corp.’s Wendy Lindskoog, Norfolk Southern Corp.’s Deb Butler, International Decal Management Corp.’s Tracy DeLeon, the Federal Railroad Administration’s Jo Strang, Canadian Pacific’s Cathryn Frankenberg, Union Pacific Railroad’s Lupe Valdez and Farmrail System Inc.’s Judy Petry.
Nomination forms can be downloaded from LRIW’s website. Nominations will be accepted until July 31. The 2015 recipient will be honored Oct. 5 at the opening session of Railway Interchange 2015 in Minneapolis.
For more information, email LRIW Woman of the Year Chair Sally Boven at firstname.lastname@example.org.