A Deep Dive into AAR Standards: Navigating the Regulatory Landscape

Ensuring rail safety requires adherence to AAR standards, which often exceed regulations. It's recommended that OEMs and manufacturers seek AAR certification to ensure high-quality, safe components.

May 23, 2024
A Deep Dive into AAR Standards: Navigating the Regulatory LandscapeA Deep Dive into AAR Standards: Navigating the Regulatory Landscape
Table of contents
Heading 2

Ensuring safety in rail transport requires that manufacturers and companies abide by standards. The Association of American Railroads is focused on ensuring safety and provides comprehensive voluntary standards to help manufacturers and railroad companies be as safe as possible.

These standards meet or, often, exceed any regulatory requirements and the AAR works with regulators to help produce standards that improve efficiency, safety, and service. This is particularly relevant to OEMs.

OEMs provide essential parts, services, and components to manufacturers of locomotives and rolling stocks, helping them create a final product that is safe and efficient. To ensure these parts are of the highest quality, manufacturers should work with OEMs that seek and obtain AAR certification for all of their parts.

Understanding AAR Standards

Since 1934, the AAR has played a central role in establishing railway standards. These standards cover a wide variety of components, parts, and finished products. This includes standards for the design of freight cars, quality assurance for roller bearing shops, container locks, and, of course, tank car valves. Put together, the standards ensure that every vehicle that hits American railroads is designed with safety in mind and that all of its parts are built "to code."

The AAR designs its standards based on ongoing research, some of which have been going on for decades. This research focuses on safety and productivity, and how to ensure the latter without compromising the former. Railroad safety standards affect everyone. Just consider the high-profile derailments that have resulted in the release of hazardous materials and/or damage to people's homes or businesses.

Because they have been doing it for so long with a great record and have experience identifying successes and failures, people in the industry trust AAR standards. When they buy a certified part, they know it meets or exceeds regulatory requirements, has been properly quality tested, and will do its job safely, efficiently, and effectively. Abiding by AAR standards helps OEMs attract and retain customers by showing that they take safety and quality seriously and can be trusted.

Overview of the AAR Certification Process

The AAR sets appropriate standards and then certifies that parts and components meet them. Manufacturers have to meet certain requirements to have their parts certified. Getting approval for components is a complicated process that requires some fees, but it is well worth it.

The basic process is this:

  1. Make sure you qualify as a supplier to North American railroads. This means the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The AAR does not work with companies that obtain certification, and then use it solely to market to railroads outside North America. They expect suppliers to be focused on North America.
  2. Obtain the appropriate AAR publications. Each standard has its publication that should be reviewed and ordered. Contact the appropriate Committee Manager.
  3. Submit the design and obtain approval. You must submit design drawings and the required per-component fee to the Committee Manager. The review takes four to ten weeks.
  4. Conduct any test required, with an official third-party test observer present.
  5. Obtain approval for your facility. For major components, technical inspection is required.
  6. Obtain approval for your QA process. This is often done at the same time as technical inspection.
  7. Request conditional approval. You can sell a limited number of parts for the first two years and have to provide sales and service support.
  8. After two years, if the part is performing properly, you can request unlimited approval.

This is a lengthy process, but it helps find problems that might show up only after a component goes into use and limits the impact and number of recalls, ultimately saving manufacturers both time and money.

AAR certification helps protect not just railroad users, but the general public, from issues caused by faulty parts. It also opens doors, as many railroad companies will only purchase certified parts and will only do business with manufacturers that pursue certification.

A Collaboration of AAR and OEMs

This relationship is a collaboration that benefits all parties. The AAR's goal is not to stop OEMs from producing parts but rather to make sure that the parts they produce are high quality and reliable, improving their relationship with their customers. In return, OEMs help the AAR expand its reach and educate railroad companies and manufacturers on the value of AAR certification.

This helps bring safety and reliability levels up to at least regulatory limits and often beyond.

AAR Standards for Rail Facilities

The AAR also issues standards for rail facilities to help ensure the safety of workers and nearby bystanders as well as help with reliability and productivity. Correctly maintaining rail infrastructure ensures compliance with standards and regulations throughout the life cycle of vehicles.

The association provides standards for the maintenance of moving parts, including wheels and cars. They have standards for, for example, how wheel and axle shops should be run to ensure proper repairs and safety for workers. Standards help workers identify defects in both moving and non-moving parts.

These standards set maintenance and operational requirements that not only improve safety but are also designed to enhance the lifespan of cars, reducing costs in the long run and helping support the environment. Maintaining all of this infrastructure is a vital part of compliance.

Facilities have to be certified and then audited regularly to ensure that quality is being kept up.

Challenges and Common Pitfalls

Achieving (and keeping) AAR certification is not always easy. Here are some of the common challenges businesses face when trying to get certified.

  1. A part or parts fails to meet the appropriate standards. This can happen if a standard is misread or misunderstood, or if there is a QA issue that goes unnoticed until the AAR inspector finds it.
  2. Your business does not complete the full range of standards needed to be certified. You need to have all parts and components certified. A certified business should avoid the sale of uncertified parts and provisionally certified parts should be clearly labeled.
  3. Your business does not meet the North American supplier requirements.

Carefully studying the published standards themselves is key to defeating these pitfalls. Make sure that you fully understand the standard and what it requires before you begin any design work on your part or component. While you can apply a standard to a part you have already designed, this is often more work than starting from scratch and may carry a higher risk of approval being withheld.

Make sure that your business covers all of the standards you need to cover, especially if you are aiming for facility certification.

Benefits of AAR Certification

The primary benefit of certification is customer trust and confidence. Both OEMs and facilities can attract more customers by placing certification front and center. As mentioned, some companies won't work with suppliers that are not certified.

It makes you more competitive, and the more compliant you are, the better you stand out next to suppliers who do not take certification seriously. The great majority of parts at McKenzie Valve are certified. Our commitment to safety and compliance is a top priority..

Additionally, certified parts are less likely to fail, helping with liability and reducing the risk of an expensive recall that can hurt your reputation. The lengthy approval process and repeated audits do not just ensure that your parts meet the required standard, but help you meet your own QA requirements.

Finally, as AAR standards meet or exceed regulatory standards, you don't have to worry about compliance. This saves your company and employees a lot of time and mental energy. It frees people up for core functions such as continuing to improve quality, designing new parts, and marketing.

Navigating the Regulatory Landscape

The AAR's goal is to keep America's railroads and the public safe. You can be a part of that by complying with standards, seeking certification, and improving the quality of your work.

At McKenzie, we take AAR certification very seriously. Check out our comprehensive range of AAR-compliant valves and machining parts. By exploring our site you are taking a great first step towards making your rail operations safer and more efficient. Let us help you seek a safer and more reliable future!

Related Posts

View All
No items found.
No items found.
View more
View more