The nation's top freight rail representative said that the industry will be targeting several key issues in the New Year, such as maintaining balanced economic regulation at the Surface Transportation Board (STB), extending the short line tax credit while laying the groundwork for overall tax reform and advancing security-safety legislation or regulation. With freight rail companies facing a deadline later this month to provide the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) with plans to implement Positive Train Control (PTC) deadline technology, the AAR reaffirmed the industry's stance that the technology will be fully installed where required by 2018 and all testing for full coast-to-coast operations completed by 2020.
The remarks by AAR President and CEO, Edward R. Hamberger were made at the 246th regular meeting of the Midwest Association of Rail Shippers as part of a panel titled, "Just what we need, more 'help' from Washington." The three-day conference focused on future challenges and opportunities for shippers, railroads and the supply chain and featured topic-experts such as STB Chairman Daniel R. Elliott III. "The past year brought much excitement and success for the freight rail industry, both from a service perspective and in terms of regulatory and legislative activity," said Hamberger, before speaking on a panel with Dave Manning, Vice Chair of the American Truckers Association. "We take very seriously our mission to deliver our customers' goods efficiently, reliably and safely and look forward to our continued partnerships." Hamberger also addressed several successes from the past year for those in attendance, including stopping efforts to increase truck weights, pushing for safer tank cars moving flammable liquids like crude oil and achieving common sense reform in environmental permitting. He also thanked the audience of rail customers for their support in pushing for an extension of the PTC deadline. "It would have never happened had not freight rail's customers let Washington, D.C. know the devastating impacts a rail shut down would have on American businesses and jobs," he said. The AAR leader last mentioned a long term project that will be getting a stepped-up focus in 2016: working with other industries and government to review the rulemaking process and improve a regulatory system that at times limits innovation and efficiencies. Hamberger argued that with a still-soft economy, American industry requires empirically-driven policy rooted in sound science.