News & Views Banner Image

April 19, 2017

Carload Traffic Continues to Post Gains

U.S. railroads have posted healthy traffic gains in March, according to Association of American Railroads (AAR) data. Carloads rose 7.3%, intermodal traffic rose 3.8% and total traffic gained 5.5% compared with figures from March 2016. Thirteen of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR registered showed in March, including coal which gained 19%, crushed stone, gravel and sand which rose 12.5%, and grain which increased 10.6%. Still on a downward trend, petroleum and petroleum products volume dropped 8.1%, motor vehicles and parts traffic dipped 5.3% compared with March 2016, but chemical carloads declined just 1.3%.

"Despite recent increases, in absolute terms, coal volumes are much lower than they were even a few years ago, and crude oil volumes are roughly half what they were a couple of years ago,” according to AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John Gray. “On the other hand, this was the best March ever for carloads of crushed stone, sand and gravel, and it was the best March for grain since 2008." It is worth noting that through 2017’s first three months, U.S. carloads increased 5.7% and intermodal volume gained 1.4% compared with the first quarter of 2016.

Another positive indicator from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Freight TSI, which tracks for-hire freight shipments by mode of transportation and aggregates these into an index, reflected an all-time high in February 2017. The February gains represented the fifth month in a row when the Freight TSI increased or was stable, resulting in a cumulative positive change of 4.5%.

Walk-ins Welcome at 2017 CONNECTIONS!

The 2017 CONNECTIONS Convention will feature opportunities for young professionals to learn, network, and share ideas. ASLRRA's Young Professionals will offer a Young Professionals Committee Meeting, an Education Track under the HR sessions, and a “Hoppy” Hour to help you get to know your industry peers! Walk-ins are welcome at 2017 CONNECTIONS. Come to Grapevine, Texas on April 22–25 and CONNECT with our industry!

Short Line Connector Magazine Available at 2017 CONNECTIONS

The Spring 2017 Issue of ASLRRA’s Short Line Connector Magazine will be arriving soon at ASLRRA’s member companies – and will be available at 2017 CONNECTIONS! Past issues can be found clicking on this link

Legislative Update

BRACE Act Momentum Builds in Senate and House

Our industry has secured 34 Co-sponsors for the BRACE Act in the Senate (S. 407), and 156 Co-sponsors in the House (H.R. 721). Railroad Day was instrumental in this swell of co-sponsorships, once again confirming the bi-partisan support for this issue. Please visit our website for plenty of information, handouts, and maps and contact our Washington team member Fred Oelsner for tips on how to reach out to your representatives today!

Regulatory Update

White House Issues Guidance on Implementation of Regulatory Roll Backs

The White House has issued a Memorandum that provides some guidelines to federal departments and agencies for implementing Executive Order 13771, "Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs.” Please click here to read the Memorandum.  Agencies are required to offset regulatory actions issued after noon on January 20, 2017. When an executive department or agency proposes a new regulation prior to the end of the government’s fiscal year on September 30, 2017, it must identify at least two existing regulations to be repealed. For fiscal year 2018, the two for one, deregulatory to regulatory requirement will continue, and in addition, agencies will be asked to provide a “zero based” regulatory budget. ASLRRA’s Jo Strang is following these developments closely, and ASLRRA will continue to advocate on behalf of our members for reductions in regulations.

PHMSA Increases Penalties for Improper Transport of HazMat

The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) will increase penalties (to reflect inflation) for improperly transporting hazardous materials. PHMSA can now seek a maximum of $182,877 for violations that result in death, serious illness or injury, or severe destruction of property. It can also charge a maximum of $78,376 for knowing violations of a less serious sort. Last year, although 18,240 HazMat transportation incidents were reported, the highest number since 2007, the eight fatalities and $74 million in damages reflect six-year lows in the severity of both injury and cost. Click here to read the announcement. 

Medicare for Railroad Families

The U.S. Railroad Retirement Board has published a Q&A on how the Federal Medicare program works for railroad retirement families.  One of many interesting points: If an individual is eligible for an annuity, he or she should contact the nearest Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) office before attaining age 65 and apply for both Medicare Part A and Part B. (This does not mean that the individual must retire, if presently working.)  The best time to apply is during the 3 months before the month in which the individual reaches age 65.

Member News

Conrail is Regional Railroad of the Year

On Tuesday, April 25, 2017, at the morning general session during the ASLRRA Connections Convention, Railway Age will present its 2017 Regional Railroad of the Year award to Conrail. Conrail (known officially as Conrail Shared Assets Organization or CSAO) is a switching and terminal railroad serving the Detroit, North Jersey and South Jersey/Philadelphia freight markets. It is the eighth-largest railroad in the U.S. measured in hours worked. 

North Shore Railroad is Short Line of the Year

Railway Age will present the Short Line of the Year award to the North Shore Railroad (NSHR), which has the unusual distinction of handling dimensional (high/wide) loads in volume, moving a variety of specialized, dimensional shipments over a short period of time in Pennsylvania along the north branch of the Susquehanna River. 

Special Short Line Engineer Training Opportunity Offered by NARS

ASLRRA is working with Associate Business Member National Academy of Railroad Sciences (NARS) on a short line engineer training course for this spring. The course is scheduled for May 22-31, at NARS on the campus of Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, KS. The intensive, eight-day course provides short line engineers with critical training on locomotive and freight car air brake systems as well as locomotive mechanical systems and basic train handling. Students will participate in approximately 12 hours of hands-on Type II locomotive simulator training.  Please contact Program Director Tony Lacy on (913) 469-2460 with any questions and click here to enroll.  

Vermont Rail System Announces Promotions and Additions

Vermont Rail System (VRS), parent of five ASLRRA member short lines, has announced that Selden Houghton, who joined the VRS team in May of 2000, has been promoted to Vice President. James Mattsen, who in 2014 brought VRS a well-rounded background from Progressive Rail and Watco, has been promoted to Assistant Vice President of Marketing & Customer Service. Frank Rogers has joined the VRS team as Assistant Vice President, Business & Interline Development. 

Aberdeen & Rockfish Railroad Celebrates 125 Years of Service 

ASLRRA member Aberdeen & Rockfish Railroad Co. (A&R) is celebrating 125 years of rail service in North Carolina’s Sandhills region. Since the creation of Fort Bragg, the short line has played a key role delivering troops and armaments. Adapting to a changing economy, traffic has shifted from timber, to agricultural crops, to chemicals. With unwavering support from the founding Blue family, the loyalty of employees who often span generations, and the same landmark headquarters building since 1904, A&R has many successes to celebrate. 

Twin Cities & Western Railroad Joins Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association

ASLRRA member Twin Cities & Western Railroad Company (TC&W) has joined the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association as a vendor member. TC&W operates, with its affiliates, Minnesota Prairie Line and Sisseton Milbank Railroad Company, approximately 350 miles of railroad track in west central Minnesota and eastern South Dakota. TC&W interchanges in the Twin Cities with BNSF Railway, Canadian Pacific Railway, CN Railway, Union Pacific Railroad Company and Minnesota Commercial Railway. Read more here

Conrail Transforms New Jersey Yard

Conrail’s Pavonia Yard, located in Camden, NJ, employs wireless GPS devices to monitor all static and mobile assets in real time. The transformation of the yard includes technology, a thorough physical redesign of the traditional electro-pneumatic gravity hump and re-engineering of the yard’s processes. The resulting higher productivity and lower safety risks are noteworthy attributes according to long time leader Ron Batory. Read more here

Short Line is Pivot Point for Port of Baltimore Logistics Center

ASLRRA short line member Tradepoint Rail, which operates approximately 100 miles of track in the Port of Baltimore, will play a key role in the development of a new global intermodal logistics center at the port.  More than 40 percent of the U.S. population and more than half of Canada’s population live within a day’s drive of the site. As a result of important agreements being reached, an additional $30 million may be available for infrastructure improvements at the site. Read the article here.

Wabtec Corp. Acquires Thermal Transfer Corp.

ASLRRA associate business member Wabtec, has acquired Thermal Transfer Corp., which manufactures heat exchangers and related components for a variety of industrial markets including rail, in applications where high temperatures and corrosive elements are present. Wabtec President and CEO Raymond T. Betler is looking forward to diversifying Wabtec’s product and market applications and leveraging new capabilities arising from Thermal Transfer’s extensive design and engineering expertise. Read more here

Union City Terminal Railroad Gets Ready to Begin Operations

New ASLRRA switching member Union City Terminal Railroad is expected to debut next month. The eight-mile line runs between Union City and Rives, TN, where it connects to the Canadian National main line. The railroad will serve several on-line industries, including a grain elevator, and tire and plastics manufacturing plants, and will lease a pair of EMD GP38-2s locomotives to power operations estimated at 2,000 carloads per year. Read more here

The National Small Business Association Seeks Leaders for Council

The National Small Business Association (NSBA) is seeking leaders from the small business community to become part of NSBA's Leadership Council. Persons with experience in leadership and in dealing with the media are invited to consider joining the Council to represent the small-business community before lawmakers and members of the media. NSBA has developed a survey containing more information.  Please click here to take the survey, so that NSBA can review and respond to you soon.

NRC’s Equipment Auction is a Big Success

The National Railroad Construction & Maintenance Association’s (NRC’s) 14th Annual Railroad Construction and Maintenance Equipment Auction, held on Thursday, April 6 in Paulsboro, NJ, sold 250 pieces of equipment for a total of $1.25 million, from which the NRC raised almost $58,500 for its Safety & Education Training program. The funding will allow NRC to strengthen its efforts, including developing communications materials and educational resources, to ensure the safety of everyone in the rail industry.

Railway Supply Institute Seeks Board Member Nominations

The Railway Supply Institute (RSI) seeks nominations of individuals interested in serving on its board of directors for a three year term beginning in January, 2018. Board members are expected to attend each board meeting, participate on committees, and be available to members, other leaders, and staff. Nominees must be from a member company in good standing; individuals may self-nominate. Read more here

 

ASLRRA 2017 CONNECTIONS is April 22-25, 2017 

 

Views & News is published by the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association. Please contact Elizabeth Sands, Editor,  with any questions or comments.