FRA New Rule Updates Rail Brake-Safety Standards

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Source: The following was excerpted from a Railway Age post written by Marybeth Luczak, executive editor, concerning recent Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) rulings, including one updating brake-safety standards.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Federal Railroad Administration has announced the following rule: 49 CFR Parts 218, 221, and 232: Miscellaneous Amendments to Brake System Safety Standards and Codification of Waivers.

According to the FRA, this rule incorporates longstanding waivers for brake inspections, tests and equipment, while clarifying existing regulations and removing outdated provisions.

Related post:
Rail Brake Prohibition Part of Pending Federal Legislation

Specifically, it:

• Extends the amount of time freight rail equipment can be left off-air—parked with its air brake system depressurized—from four hours to up to 24 hours before requiring a new brake inspection. The agency estimates the industry will perform 110,000 fewer Class I brake inspections annually and that the cost savings will be more than $500 million duringf the next decade. A Class III brake inspection when adding freight cars to trains is still required.

• Incorporates new technology to test brakes on each freight car. FRA permits two types of automated tests. According to the agency, “Cars tested with an automated single-car test device showed an 18-percent reduction in repeat freight car brake failures. Cars tested with the four-pressure method showed a 58-percent reduction in repeat freight car brake failures.” Due to these improvements, FRA has increased testing intervals for freight cars from one year to 24 or 48 months, depending on the automated test method used.

The FRA issued its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in January. The NPRM was in response to the Association of American Railroads’ (AAR) request to “relax the requirement to conduct a Class I brake test prior to operation if a train is off-air for a period of more than four hours.”

“Incorporating technologies and safety practices, this final rule improves freight rail efficiency and will make our freight rail system competitive for the future,” FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory said. “Issuing waivers permitting railroads to test these practices gave us an opportunity to verify the safety benefits. Modernization no longer has to happen by waiver; it’s permanent, and the economic impact to freight rail couldn’t come at a more pressing time. We’re confident that the changes outlined in this final rule will meet or exceed current safety standards while saving the industry money.”

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AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies commented: “With this final rule, the FRA has modernized outdated, legacy regulations to keep pace with the industry’s ongoing tech transformation while maintaining uncompromising levels of safety. AAR applauds the FRA for this rulemaking process and its commitment to our shared safety goals.”

The entire post can be viewed by clicking HERE.

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