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In a letter sent Jan. 5, 2023, to the CEOs of the seven Class I railroads operating in the United States as well as to Association of American Railroads (AAR) President/CEO Ian Jeffries, Federal Railroad Administrator Amit Bose warned them that “incremental” changes to carriers’ training, qualification and certification programs have in some cases not solved numerous deficiencies identified by FRA audits over the past 18 months.
“Please be advised that FRA is committed to pursuing enforcement action if a railroad’s resubmitted certification program continues to fail to address the deficiencies identified by FRA,” Bose wrote. “Accordingly, whenever FRA conducts its audit of your railroad, FRA will take into account those opportunities FRA has already provided your railroad to correct or address previously identified deficiencies.
“I want to remind industry that the quality and adequacy of these certification programs are fundamental to ensuring that your operating crews are properly trained to safely perform their assigned duties,” Bose wrote. “This starts with certification programs that clearly meet the minimum training and qualification standards.”
Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Deputy Administrator Amit Bose’s nomination by President Joe Biden to become administrator of FRA was advanced Oct. 20 by the U.S. Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Along with Bose, the nomination of Meera Joshi to be administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also was advanced to the full U.S. Senate by a 22-6 committee vote. A timetable for the full Senate to consider Bose’s and Joshi’s nominations has not yet been set. In related news, Bose was a passenger Oct. 13 aboard the Amtrak Wolverine route from Chicago to Detroit with three SMART Transportation Division state legislative directors and also appeared at a news conference at Chicago’s Union Station as the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC) unveiled its 40-year Midwest Regional Rail plan. “Looking all the way through 2055, the plan addresses key corridor and investment priorities, potential funding strategies, and necessary governance structures identified by the states working with MIPRC,” Bose said. “While America’s interstate highway system and commercial aviation industry are vital and indispensable, rail can and does play a key role in our multi-modal transportation system,” Bose said. “Nowhere is that more evident than Chicago, the nation’s rail hub.” SMART-TD Illinois State Legislative Director Bob Guy, chairman of the commission, as well as Michigan SLD Donald Roach and Minnesota SLD Nick Katich, all spent time with Bose during the trip before MIPRC began its three-day-long meeting. “It was wonderful to be able to spend time with Deputy Administrator Amit Bose while he was in Chicago and on the train to Detroit as part of the MIPRC annual meeting,” Guy said. “It’s clear that he is very aware of our serious concerns and frustrations with the previous FRA hierarchy, but his openness, communication and availability to our members and our leadership are a testament to his priorities and provides a glimpse into how he values SMART-TD’s input on issues affecting our members.” Bose also was a guest on the SMART-TD National Legislative Office’s monthly Zoom call Oct. 11 where he discussed concerns brought up by both national and state officers. A full recap of the wide-ranging discussion that Deputy Administrator Bose had with SMART-TD officers will be published in the next edition of the SMART-TD News.
The Federal Railroad Administration on Sept. 21 sided with a SMART Transportation Division request to reject the extension of COVID-related regulatory waiver requests by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). The waivers, initially granted in March 2020 by the Trump administration in response to the emerging coronavirus pandemic, were roundly criticized by the SMART Transportation Division at their inception. They had been extended on multiple occasions since then and covered regulations governing:
Locomotive engineer skills examinations
Locomotive and conductor certification
On Sept. 13, the SMART-TD National Legislative Department filed public comments in objection to the latest extension request, saying the following: “It is hard for this Organization to grasp that the railroads are seriously concerned about the pandemic when they are doing little to nothing to prevent its spread. In fact, it seems they only want the CDC guidelines to apply where they might be most able to cut an operational corner, rather than provide a safe and sterile work environment,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes wrote. “According to our applicable members: locomotive, crew room, and transport vehicle cleaning and sanitation has all but stopped (and has been for quite some time). Clearly, prevention of the spread of the virus has taken a back seat to waivers and relief from rules. Safety is either important or it isn’t. It doesn’t just apply here and there.” FRA concurred with many of the points referred to by SMART-TD in its response, especially regarding training of new rail employees. The agency noted that carriers appeared to use the waivers of at least two rules for an intent outside the purpose originally sought. “FRA’s investigation of these concerns revealed that in numerous instances the railroads were utilizing this relief not to facilitate social distancing, but instead, out of administrative convenience,” FRA’s Karl Alexy wrote. The SMART-TD National Legislative Office noted that the agency appears to be more responsive to safety concerns expressed by labor and commented on the renewed receptiveness the agency has displayed since the administration of President Joe Biden took charge at the beginning of the year. “A change in leadership at FRA has made a difference,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “We thank Deputy Administrator Amit Bose for his agency’s thoughtful consideration of our input as they made a decision on the extensions.” In the same response to AAR, FRA granted two other extensions to which the SMART-TD National Legislative Department did not object that covered quick tie-ups and locomotive engineer and conductor recertification timelines. Last week, Bose appeared before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation regarding his nomination to become administrator of FRA. His nomination remains before the committee as additional written questions were posed by committee members and submitted to nominees after the Sept. 22 hearing.
Amit Bose, who served as deputy administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) during the Obama administration, was appointed to the same post last week by President Biden.
“We’re excited to be working with Amit Bose,” said SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director Gregory Hynes. “We’ve had several conversations and he understands and supports our issues. It’s a welcomed new day for rail labor.” Bose has years of experience serving in the public sector including as FRA deputy administrator, FRA chief counsel, USDOT associate general counsel and USDOT deputy assistant secretary for governmental affairs. While in the Obama administration, Bose worked on High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail grants for projects on the Northeast Corridor and has a longtime association with the Corridor. In addition to living along the corridor in West Windsor, N.J., and working for New Jersey Transit, Bose helped establish and later served on the Northeast Corridor Commission. He also participated in structuring the commission’s cost allocation policy, helped the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) deliver a $2.5 billion Railroad Rehabilitation and Infrastructure Financing (RRIF) loan to Amtrak for its next generation of Acela rail cars, and worked on the environmental review of a number of projects. Amtrak Board Chairman Tony Coscia released a statement on Jan. 21 supporting Bose’s appointment. “Amit Bose will be a great addition to the Federal Railroad Administration. His extensive experience in transportation policy, law and management will be an asset to the Biden Administration,” Coscia said. “Mr. Bose understands the importance of investing in infrastructure to support economic recovery and keeping America’s railroad system reliable and safe. We look forward to working with Secretary designee Pete Buttigieg, Deputy Secretary designee Polly Trottenberg and Mr. Bose to improve and expand passenger rail service across the country.” Before his return to FRA, Bose served as vice president for HNTB Corporation and as board chairman for the Coalition for the Northeast Corridor.