On January 15, 2020, FRA issued an extensive Notice Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) entitled “Brake System Safety Standards.” The NPRM makes sweeping changes to brake inspections standards, and incorporates into the regulations a large number of waivers it has issued to railroads and railroad associations. Among these changes are modifications to regulations concerning air brake tests, end-of train devices, helper service, and brake maintenance. In large part, the intent of the proposal is to “to significantly reduce the number of brake tests performed while increasing network velocity.”
The Brotherhood Railway Carman (BRC) joined with other rail unions to oppose several items discussed in the NPRM. Among other things, rail labor argued against changes that FRA proposed regarding the following four (4) regulations:
(1) Section 218.22 Utility Employees (proposal to exempt utility employees from blue-flag protection when changing the battery on an end-of-train device);
(2) Section 232.205 Class I Brake Test Initial Terminal Inspection (proposal to extend the time that equipment is off-air and in need of testing from four (4) hours to 24 hours);
(3) Section 232.213 Extended Haul Trains (proposal to use electronic air brake inspection/testing recordkeeping as the sole basis for extending the distance between such inspections/tests by two-thirds – or 1,000 miles); and
(4) Section 232.305 Single Car Air Brake Tests (proposal to change the testing period from every 12 months to every five (5) years).
“FRA deserves credit for addressing safety issues in light of changes made in the railroad industry,” says BRC President Rich Johnson. “However, not all of the changes proposed by FRA in the NPRM can ensure the same level of safety that is provided by the current Federal regulations; such is the case with the proposed changes that FRA makes regarding the four (4) regulations listed above.”
Click here to see the joint comments filed by rail labor.