RailTrends 2023 Industry Association Viewpoints Panel (l to r) Intermodal Association of North American (IANA) Chief Operating Officer Rob Cannizzaro, NRC President Ashley Wieland, Railway Supply Institute (RSI) President Patty Long, and REMSA President Urszula Soucie.
NRC President Ashley Wieland spoke to rail industry leaders at Progressive Railroading’s 2024 RailTrends Conference in New York on November 16. Ashley represented the NRC on the industry association viewpoints panel. Other representatives include Railway Supply Institute (RSI) President Patty Long, REMSA President Urszula Soucie, and the Intermodal Association of North American (IANA) Chief Operating Officer Rob Cannizzaro.
Ashley shared the perspectives of NRC member contractors and suppliers and addressed a range of topics, including safety, the labor and business outlook, sustainability, and advocacy efforts. Here are some excerpts from her remarks:
- On Industry Safety: "Though the NRC is well known for our annual conference, we are also very well-known for the safety resources that we provide to members and the industry. Our safety committee spearheads a number of safety programs and resources including toolbox talks, FRA-approved part 243minimum training standards templates, and a library of 29, soon to be 30,safety videos."
- On the Labor Market: "Workforce development and the current labor market are big issues for rail contractors. ... The NRC is looking at ways to attract a strong and skilled workforce to the railroad industry. This year the NRC offered a trade school scholarship to employees of NRC member companies as well as children and grandchildren of employees of NRC member companies. This is in response to the need for more skilled labor such as welders and electricians."
- On Rail Grants: "Rail grant programs that received record funding levels from the IIJA are just now starting to trickle down to the rail contractor and supply community and will continue to do so over the next few years. In particular, record Amtrak funding, CRISI grants, Railroad Crossing Elimination grants, Federal-State Partnership grants, and FTA New Starts grants will continue to provide a steady stream of opportunities for railroad contractors."
- On Sustainability: "There is a lot of interest in the contractor community to work closely with the railroads to achieve sustainability goals, including those that track sustainability metrics and reduce their carbon footprint. The NRC has formed a sustainability committee that is working closely with counterparts at the major railroads so that our industry may have a concerted effort to minimize our environmental impact. One of the goals for this committee is to eventually provide resources for small or mid-sized companies that don’t have the personnel in-house to do reporting in Ecovadis or track Co2 emissions, or who just don’t even know whereto start on their sustainability journey."
- On Veterans: "The NRC Veterans Committee is also looking to provide veterans with rail industry mentors and opportunities to have a rewarding career in the rail industry postmilitary service. Veterans coming out of the service have a lot of transferable skills that can benefit our industry. Volunteer committee members are looking to coach and mentor potential candidates, and facilitate the hiring of US veterans to NRC member companies as they transition to civilian life."
RailTrends is an executive-level conference for rail industry leaders sponsored by Progressive Railroading. The 19thannual conference was held November 16 and 17 at the Marriott Marquis in New York City. See RailTrends for more information.