Friday, October 19, 2012

FRA publishes NPRM for rail inspections

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A defect found by Herzog Services, Inc. A defect found by Herzog Services, Inc.

The Federal Railroad Administration published a Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register Oct. 19, proposing to amend the Federal Track Safety Standards "to promote the safety of railroad operations by enhancing rail-flaw detection processes."

In particular, FRA is proposing minimum qualification requirements for rail-flaw detection equipment operators, as well as revisions to requirements for effective rail inspection frequencies, rail-flaw remedial actions and rail inspection records. In addition, FRA is proposing to remove regulatory requirements concerning joint bar fracture reporting.

FRA is proposing to provide railroads with a four-hour period in which to verify that a suspected defect exists in the rail section. The primary purpose of the four-hour deferred-verification option is to assist the railroads in improving detector car utilization and production, increase the opportunity to detect larger defects and ensure that all of the rail the detector car travels over while in service is inspected. Additionally, FRA proposes revisions to the remedial action table in areas such as transverse defects, longitudinal weld defects and crushed head defects.

FRA stated that in its analysis of the economic impacts of the proposed rule, it did not believe extra costs would be experienced or that existing operations would be adversely affected by the proposed changes. FRA found that the new rules would allocate more time for inspections, increase the opportunity to detect larger defects sooner, provide assurance that qualified operators are inspecting the rail and cause inspection records to be updated with more useful information. Additionally, FRA says the proposed four-hour verification window "permits railroads to avoid the cost of paying their internal inspection crews or renting a rail car flaw detector an additional half day, saving the industry $8,400 per day. FRA believes the value of the anticipated benefits would easily justify the cost of implementing the rule as proposed."

For more on the proposed rule, please visit the Federal Register's website, here.

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