Tuesday, December 11, 2012

FRA proposes revisions to PTC rule

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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is proposing a revision to the rule concerning positive train control (PTC) in response to a petition from the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

In a summary published in the Dec. 11 edition of the Federal Register, "FRA proposes amendments to regulations implementing a requirement of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 that certain passenger and freight railroads install positive train control (PTC) systems. The proposal would revise the regulatory provisions related to the de minimis exception to the installation of PTC systems generally, and more specifically, its application to yard-related movements. The proposal would also revise the existing regulations related to en route failures of a PTC system and discontinuances of signal systems once a PTC system is installed and make additional technical amendments to regulations governing grade crossing warning systems and signal systems, including PTC systems."

More specifically, the exemption would raise the number of freight cars containing poison-by-inhalation hazmat materials from 100 cars to 200 cars, revise the grade limitation to be more consistent with the definition of "heavy grade" present in part 232 of the rule, remove the traffic limitation of 15 million gross tons from the general de minimis exception, but not the categorical exception. In direct response to AAR's suggestions, FRA proposes to add a yard movement de minimis exception that would authorize movements by unequipped locomotives over PTC-equipped main line track segments for the purpose of switching service or transfer train movements.

What is not included in the revisions is the creation of an additional limited operations exemption, removal of oversight from signal system discontinuances or modifying the default rules for resolving en route failures of a PTC system. However, FRA does propose to clarify that PTC equipment of non-controlling locomotives may be used to restore full PTC functionality to the consist.

For more information, visit the Federal Register.

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