RSI looks to sustain momentum in 2016

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
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In 2015, the Railway Supply Institute, Inc. (RSI) advocated quite heavily against keeping truck size and weight from increasing. And it was successful on both accounts. Now, according to RSI’s Nicole Brewin, Vice President of Governmental Affairs, intercity passenger rail funding outside of the appropriations process is big on the association’s 2016 agenda.

H.R. 3763, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015, which would allow heavier trucks on interstate highways in an effort to save shippers time and money, was rejected by the House on Nov. 3, 2015. The amendment, No. 29, which would increase the current weight limit for a tractor-trailer from 80,000 pounds to 91,000 pounds, was defeated by a vote of 236-187.

Additionally, the U.S. Senate on Nov. 10, 2015 passed an amendment, “Motion to Instruct Conferees of the Highway Bill on Double 33-Foot Trailer Trucks,” opposing the allowance of twin 33-foot trailers on federal highways in a 56-31 vote.

“It was a huge victory for us, especially because everyone was saying to us that even if we’re successful against heavier trucks, we might still have to deal with longer trucks,” Brewin said. “But we pushed it down to the wire and we’re really thankful we did because we were successful on both issues.”

In addition to RSI, the Association of American Railroads (AAR), short line railroads, Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, and the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks (CABT) opposed H.R. 3763. But the “Motion to Instruct Conferees of the Highway Bill on Double 33-Foot Trailer Trucks” amendment, which was supported by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), as well as RSI and CABT, did not have the support of AAR.

“What we found this time is that the strategy shifted,” Brewin said. “Trucking companies made a tactical decision to split the weight/length issue. And at that point, AAR decided not to take a position.” Brewin adds that although RSI’s efforts were successful in 2015, “Both issues won’t be going away and we’ll have to be ever vigilant as the strategy is always shifting.”

Brewin also commented on the recent passage of the U.S. transportation-funding bill, the five-year bill now known as the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, and how RSI was happy to see Congress provide clarification on tank car requirements, as well as Amtrak reauthorization.

Moving into 2016, big on the association’s agenda is looking at how to fund passenger rail in a “dedicated, long-term way,” Brewin said. “We still struggle with how to fund it. How do we get to a point where we don’t have to pull from other resources? We think it’s possible but a lot of ground work still needs to be done.”

Other areas of importance for RSI include additional funding for the Positive Train Control (PTC) extension, TIGER grants, the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) New Starts program, and research and development. “These are all areas important to RSI members and customers,” said Brewin, adding that 2015 was successful because of RSI’s partnerships with AAR, the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) and suppliers. “We want to see that continue,” Brewin said. “The message from all of this is growing a healthy, vibrant rail industry. How do we continue to grow the supply industry and support customers, especially in a year that has been predicted to be economically challenging given the carloadings numbers?”

 

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