FRA Issues Training Revision NPRM

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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In response to petitions for a rulemaking, the Federal Railroad Administration is proposing amending its regulation on “Training, Qualification, and Oversight for Safety-Related Railroad Employees” for the purpose of “codifying agency guidance and clarifying existing requirements.” The comment period ends Dec. 2, 2022.

Executive Summary

“In response to the mandate of section 401(a) of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA),on Nov. 7, 2014, FRA published a final rule (2014 Final Rule) establishing minimum training standards for safety-related railroad employees and requiring railroad carriers, contractors, and subcontractors to develop and submit certain training programs to FRA for approval.

“On May 3, 2017, FRA published a final rule that delayed implementation dates in the 2014 Final Rule by one year.The delay was necessary to help model training program developers and other regulated entities comply with the rule. On April 27, 2018, FRA published a final rule in response to a petition for reconsideration of that May 2017 rule by granting the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association’s (ASLRRA) request to delay the implementation dates by an additional year.FRA determined that the delay was necessary to improve compliance, reduce significant cost impacts associated with the rule, and prevent complicating the approval process.

“On June 27 and July 31, 2019, FRA received joint petitions for rulemaking filed by ASLRRA and the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association, Inc. (NRC) (collectively, ‘Associations’) requesting additional implementation delays and other changes to the 2014 Final Rule; these petitions were docketed in DOT’s Docket Management System as FRA-2019-0050. On January 2, 2020, FRA responded to the Associations’ petitions for rulemaking by issuing a final rule delaying the regulation’s implementation dates for all contractors, and those Class II and III railroads that are not intercity or commuter passenger railroads with 400,000 total employee work hours annually or more.Regarding the Associations’ remaining requests in the petitions for rulemaking, FRA’s January 2, 2020, final rule stated that FRA was considering addressing the Associations’ remaining requests in a separate rulemaking.This proposed rulemaking would address the remaining requests in the Associations’ 2019 petitions for rulemaking, clarify current requirements, and remove regulatory provisions that are obsolete.

“FRA has examined the proposed rulemaking and finds that any associated costs and benefits would be de minimis (too trivial or minor to merit consideration). It is expected that the railroad industry and FRA would experience several qualitative benefits, which are fully discussed in the Regulatory Impact section of this proposed rule. These benefits include: (1) providing clarity to the regulated community, thereby facilitating compliance with the regulatory requirements; (2) making it easier for FRA to administer the Training Rule’s requirements; and (3) removing certain regulatory provisions that are obsolete.”

From the “Definition of Refresher Training” Section:

“FRA is proposing to revise the definition of ‘refresher training’ because the Associations’ request for clarification in their petitions for rulemaking express confusion and request clarification. FRA currently defines ‘refresher training’ as meaning periodic retraining required by an employer for each safety-related railroad employee to remain qualified. Because refresher training is already required in other FRA regulations, albeit under different names, FRA believed the general meaning of the term was understood throughout the regulated railroad community. However, in reviewing FRA’s other refresher training requirements, and the Associations’ and other industry members’ questions about refresher training, FRA recognizes that clarifying the term would be helpful—especially for small entities.

“Accordingly, FRA proposes to revise the definition of the term ‘refresher training’ in part 243 to, among other things: (1) acknowledge that FRA refers to refresher training in its other regulations with a variety of terms ( e.g., ‘recurrent training,’ ‘re-training,’ ‘periodic training,’ ‘training that occurs periodically,’ or ‘training that is required within defined intervals’); and (2) state that those refresher training programs or plans required by FRA’s other regulations need not be submitted to FRA for review under § 243.103(b).

“FRA’s proposed definition of refresher training explains that the purpose of this type of training is to improve the job performance of existing employees by acquainting them with any problematic issues or new skills, methods, and processes. In conjunction with the proposed revisions to the definition of ‘refresher training,’ FRA is also proposing revisions to the refresher training requirements and options in § 243.201(e) to clarify what employers need to include, at a minimum, to complete acceptable refresher training.

“Definition of Training Organizations or Learning Institutions: FRA is proposing to add a definition of ‘training organizations or learning institutions’ to address an issue FRA is currently answering through guidance. FRA has been asked several times whether certain small- and medium-sized businesses that provide training to employers are ‘training organizations or learning institutions’ for purposes of part 243. Because part 243 currently lacks a definition, some businesses were confused about their need to comply with the rule. To provide clarity, and as explained in more detail in the section-by-section analysis, FRA is proposing a definition that identifies four characteristics of a training organization or learning institution.

“Model Program Developer or Employer With an Approved Program Wants To Be Treated as a Training Organization or Learning Institution: FRA has received inquiries from entities with FRA-approved programs (either model programs under § 243.105 or employer programs under § 243.101) asking whether they need additional FRA-approval to provide training services to employers as a training organization or learning institution. In conformance with verbal guidance that FRA has previously provided, this NPRM would clarify that such entities need not resubmit an approved model or employer program to be recognized under part 243 as a training organization or learning institution. Rather, such entities would only need to submit an informational filing for FRA-approval containing the information required § 243.111(c).”

Download the entire NPRM as published in the Federal Register:

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