Federal Railroad Administration Strengthens Training Requirements for Railroad Safety Employees

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) last week issued a final rule it says will strengthen training requirements for railroad employees and contractors who perform safety-related work.

The rule, which was mandated by the Rail Safety Improvement Act (RSIA) of 2008, ensures safety-related employees are trained and qualified to comply with any relevant federal railroad safety laws, regulations and orders, FRA said in a news release.

“Safety is our top priority and this is just the latest step in our mission to ensure the safety of railroad employees, the public and the communities these railroads pass through,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a news release. “The GROW AMERICA Act will help advance safety by harnessing technology and research, as well as implementing Positive Train Control and updating federal hours of service regulations.”

The rule improves training for all safety-related railroad employees, regardless of whether the person is employed by a railroad, a contractor or a subcontractor, by requiring:

  • Minimum training standards for each type of safety-related railroad employee;
  • FRA review and approval of each employer’s training program to ensure employees will be qualified to measurable standards;
  • Greater use of structured on-the-job and interactive training;
  • Methods for each employer to review and improve training programs annually with a focus on closing performance gaps; and
  • A streamlined, nation-wide approach that bolsters training for operators of roadway maintenance machines equipped with a crane that work across multiple jurisdictions.

Through the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC), FRA is working to complete the actions mandated by RSIA, including developing a framework for the creation and implementation of performance-based programs that anticipate and reduce risk.  An RSAC working group has developed recommendations for fatigue management provisions and the agency moving forward with rulemakings related to the transportation of crude oil and ethanol by rail – one focusing on the securement of equipment and the other on the appropriate crew size requirements when transporting highly flammable liquids.

Additionally, FRA is preparing a final rule amending its regulations related to roadway workers and is developing other RSAC-supported actions that advance high-performing passenger rail, such as proposed rules on standards for alternative compliance with FRA’s Passenger Equipment Safety Standards.