The Agricultural Retailers Association praised Congress and the White House for enacting the "Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2015" (H.R. 3919), which extends the Positive Train Control (PTC) deadline to December 31, 2018.

"ARA applauds Congress and the Administration for working together to avert a potentially catastrophic shut-down of the American rail network," said Richard Gupton, Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Counsel. "We appreciate ARA members and other industry allies that weighed in with their members of Congress on this critical issue facing American agriculture."

Large portions of freight rail service would have been forced to shut down without this action. Several railroads had already notified ARA members that essential crop inputs, such as anhydrous ammonia, would not be shipped by rail after December 2015.

"ARA is pleased the railroads have rescinded their cessation of service notices for Toxic Inhalation Hazardous (TIH) products," Gupton added. "Our industry looks forward to working closely with the railroads and other industry partners to ensure a timely implementation of the PTC requirements before the next deadline."

Positive Train Control (PTC) is a GPS-based train control system designed to prevent collisions and over-speed derailments. Congress mandated freight railroad lines carrying certain "toxic by inhalation" (TIH) materials, including anhydrous ammonia, passenger railroads, and commuter railroads implement PTC by December 31, 2015.

However, most freight and commuter railroads reported they were not able to meet the deadline, and required more time to complete implementation.  

A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on the issue confirmed that railroads have faced a number of challenges in implementing the complex technology, and most would not have been able to meet the deadline.  

The legislation, now enacted into law, extends the deadline to fully implement PTC to December 31, 2018, and provides limited authority for the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary to extend the deadline an additional two years beyond 2018, if railroads demonstrate they are facing continued difficulties in completing the mandate but made every effort to do so.