By James L. Curtis and Craig B. Simonsen

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is amending the Federal Track Safety Standards to promote the safety of railroad operations by enhancing rail flaw detection processes. 79 Fed. Reg. 4234 (January 24, 2014).

After review and consideration of public comments submitted on the FRA’s proposed rule on Track Safety Standards, Improving Rail Integrity (77 Fed. Reg. 64249 (October 19, 2012)), the Agency prepared its final rule. The final rule establishes minimum qualification requirements for rail flaw detection equipment operators, revised requirements for effective rail inspection frequencies, rail flaw remedial actions, and rail inspection records.

Notable is a new provision requiring that providers of rail flaw detection have a documented training program to ensure that a flaw detection equipment operator is qualified to operate each of the various types of equipment utilized in the industry for which they are assigned to operate. For a rail flaw detection test to be valid, the test must be performed by a qualified operator. Qualified operators are in turn subject to minimum training, evaluation, and documentation requirements to help ensure the validity of a rail flaw detection test. “It is the responsibility of the track owner to reasonably ensure that any provider of rail flaw detection is in compliance with these training and qualification requirements.” Emphasis added.

This final rule is effective March 25, 2014. Petitions for reconsideration must be received on or before March 25, 2014. Comments in response to petitions for reconsideration must be received on or before May 9, 2014. Any petitions for reconsideration or comments on petitions for reconsideration related to this Docket, No. FRA–2011–0058, Notice No. 2, may be submitted on the Federal eRulemaking Portal.