Face Time

I really don’t need to explain why, in this day and age of constant electronic communication, face to face time is extremely important. Call me old fashioned, but you can get more done in a day with five smart guys in a room than you can in a month of emails. That being said, imagine what you can do with 50 smart people in the room.This happened at the ASLRRA’s first ever six committee joint meeting in Sacramento last week. In a day and a half of presentations, discussions, and debate, the Legal, Mechanical, Passenger, Police & Security, Safety & Training, and Technology committees met to work together on the issue of Positive Train Control, and what the ASLRRA’s and the committees’ next steps are. What I found truly energizing about the meeting was how the group worked together. Everyone in the room was a smart person in their subject area, and the open sharing and discussion on ideas was simply reassuring that we can make this work, even with the bumps in the road that are going to be in front of us.I’ve been involved in the committee process for roughly 15 years now, and it has been rare for multiple committees to work together. Why? Most of the time, it has been because the subject matter is really suited to that single group. There may have been a little crossover here and there, but for the most part we stayed in our silos. Now, PTC has presented us with a need for us all to talk and work together (no one yelled “Avengers Assemble” but you get the idea). When we first looked at PTC in 2009 shortly after the RSIA of 2008 was passed by Congress, we all thought about PTC as something you put on your locomotive. None of us thought at the time that PTC would involve back office computer systems, multiple forms of wireless communication systems, liability issues, rules enforcement, and probably a half dozen areas that we haven’t covered yet.So what is next? There are two paths here: first, all of the committees will go back and work on the action items that the group came up with, and second, that can’t be the last time a group like this meets. All of the committee people are working on a process to facilitate meetings like this in the future. Let’s be honest here folks, PTC is not going to be the last 900 pound gorilla in the room, and while it may not require the same mix of committees next time, we still need to meet as a group and have the exchange of information and ideas. It is how railroads have worked for over 150 years, and while the subjects have changed from what standard gauge should be to PTC, in the end we all do work together.---By Steve Friedland
steven-fb.jpgSteve Friedland is a well-known leader in the short line industry who has devoted more than two decades to railroading. At the Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, he worked in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations. In 1999, he founded Short Line Data Systems, a provider of railroad EDI and dispatching software, AEI hardware, and management consulting to the short line industry. He currently serves as the ASLRRA representative to the AAR's Wireless Communications Committee and is chairman of the joint AAR-ASLRRA Short Line Information Improvement Committee. He also is a member of the ASLRRA's board of directors.