Do Railroad Contractors Need an FRA Approval Letter?
This has recently become the most common question I am asked by contractors There are a couple of points to consider in order to determine if an FRA approval letter is required.
Some FRA programs require submission, but not all of them.
Many training programs are no longer required to be submitted to FRA.
Here are some examples of common training programs that railroad contractors need training for under federal railroad safety laws and regulations but are no longer required to be submitted to FRA:
Bridge Safety Standards (49 CFR Part 214 Subpart B)
Roadway Worker Protection (49 CFR Part 214 Subpart C)
Roadway Maintenance Machine Operator (§214.355)
Drug & Alcohol Training for Supervisors (§219.11(g))
Some examples of training programs that will require submission include:
Railroad Freight Car Safety Standards (49 CFR Part 215)
Locomotive Safety Standards (49 CFR Part 229)
Blue Signal Protection of Workers (49 CFR Part 218 Subpart B)
Signal Training (CFR Parts 233, 234, 235 & 236)
Refer to pages 8-11 in the FRA Compliance Manual for a complete list of training programs that do NOT require submission (you can find a copy here). Regardless of if you submit the training program to FRA or not, you still need to comply with the training requirements in 243 for any safety-related task as defined in the regulation.
The follow-up question I typically get when I explain that not all programs need to be submitted is, "If I don't need to submit my training program to FRA, why is my railroad customer requiring a letter from FRA that indicates I have an approved program?"
There is some confusion in the industry about if contractors are required to get approval letters from the FRA for the 243 training programs. The confusion comes from the regulatory language in §243.107(a) that states, An employer who provides or is responsible for the training of safety-related railroad employees shall submit its training program to FRA for review and approval. Several railroads have quoted this portion of 243 to contractors when asking for documentation that the railroad is compliant with 243.
A couple of thoughts on this:
As previously mentioned, FRA does not require submissions for specific training programs as listed in the Compliance Manual. However, this submission requirement changed in May 2019 and the regulatory language in 49 CFR Part 243 has not been updated yet to reflect this change; this conflict in language is the primary reason for the confusion.
Many railroads are accepting a general statement from contractors that they are compliant.
If you are a contractor and using a model program provider's training program, you can provide the railroad with the approval letter for the model program and indicate that you are 243 compliant and are using an approved program.
The requirements between railroads and contractors are not always regulatory in nature and are also contractual. You will need to work with your customers to ensure you are providing the proper documentation. However, there is not a regulatory requirement that contractors get FRA approval letters for the training programs that no longer require a submission.
Do you have other questions about 243 compliance? Join us for a webinar that will be an open forum of Q&A on 243 on April 20th. More details can be found at https://www.sparkts.net/post/webinar-243-question-answer