Member Benefit Summary: FRA RSAC Participation

How Rail Regulations are Created, How RSI Members can Participate

May 6, 2013. One of the many questions RSI receives is how the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and more specifically, how the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) creates the federal regulations that oversee the rail and rail supply industry. While the answer is not always simple, members of RSI can have a direct impact on how these regulations are created by participating on the FRA Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC).

“RSI is one of the thirty-nine entities that is a member of RSAC. As a member of RSAC, we can nominate our member companies to participate on these working groups which help craft the recommendations to FRA,” said Nicole Brewin, RSI VP of Government Affairs. “Participating in these working groups provides our members with an opportunity to impact our industry in a way they might not otherwise get.”

Below is a summary describing the regulatory process at FRA and how RSAC contributes:

The FRA follows the standard process by which Federal agencies promulgate new or revised rules. After enactment of a Federal statute by Congress that requires an agency to promulgate rules, the agency initiates the rulemaking by preparing a proposed rule and publishing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register. A NPRM provides the public an opportunity to review and comment on the proposed rule. After the public comment period, the agency publishes a final rule that includes a discussion of the comments. The public then has 60 days to file petitions with the agency requesting reconsideration of the rule. After resolution of any petitions to reconsider, the rule is subject to judicial review in Federal court.

In 1996, FRA established RSAC, a Federal Advisory Committee, to assist in its development of rail safety rules.  The RSAC process brings together stakeholders to facilitate communication and development of realistic rules that can be more readily and quickly implemented.

RSAC members represent 39 entities, including the Federal Government, State governments, railroad industry associations, rail carriers, labor unions, railroad suppliers, and other industry associations. At its discretion, the Agency requests RSAC’s assistance, and RSAC forms a working group to address the task. Working groups develop recommendations that they send to the full Committee, which then recommends regulatory language to FRA.  Though it is not required to, FRA generally develops its NPRMs based on RSAC’s recommendations. FRA staff represent the Agency on the working groups and provide leadership to guide working groups’ deliberations. The Agency has produced guidance that outlines goals for the process; defines the roles of each member of FRA’s team; and specifies requirements for communications within the team, with FRA management, with RSAC stakeholders, and with the Office of the Secretary of Transportation and the Office of Management and Budget. The guidance also calls for FRA’s team to plan for these working groups, and for senior management to approve the team’s positions, negotiation strategies, and 4 timetables prior to working group meetings. The purpose of this planning is to allow the Agency to speak with one voice during negotiations, and ensure that working groups focus on realistic alternatives.

If your company is interested in participating in the RSAC process, please contact Nicole Brewin, VP of Government Affairs at or (202) 347-4664.


About The Railway Supply Institute (RSI)

 The Railway Supply Institute (RSI) represents companies involved in the manufacture of products and services in the freight car, locomotive, maintenance-of-way, communications and signaling, and transit industries. Since its founding in 1908 RSI and its predecessor organizations have delivered comprehensive marketing, government relations, business development, and standards and technology services to its membership and advocated exclusively on behalf of supplier interests in multiple industry coalitions, legislative bodies and regulatory organizations. For more information visit RSI’s website,, or call 202-347-4664.