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Association Bisnow
April 1, 2008



Association of American Railroads president Ed Hamberger is a creative problem solver.  As the head of a trade association with only 15 full members, it's a necessity, because without near unanimity of agreement, nothing gets done.  (AAR's main members are the major Class 1 freight railroads like CSX, Union Pacific, and Norfolk Southern.)  At their offices just a couple blocks from Union Station (natch), we chewed the fat with Ed to find out how he gets things rolling for the railroads.    


Ed tells us that building a consensus is sometimes as simple as making 10 phone calls. At other times, more coaxing is required. In 2006 the AAR was facing a change in legislation concerning the number of hours train crews could work per month. The board wasn't coming to a consensus after eight months. So in the days leading up to a Congressional hearing, Hamberger persuaded the members to stay in a room until they could find a solution "they could live with."  Just like those movies about juries, it worked. 



AAR also works actively with its many suppliers and related companies like short lines, and is famous for each year masterminding a huge "Railroad Day" on Capitol Hill where they arrange countless meetings to get their members and issues known.  Last month's was their biggest and best yet. Yet although AAR's staff of 70 spends plenty of time on policy and lobbying, another focus of the association is on operations for their members' 142,000 mile rail network and the technical standards setting needed to be sure, for example, that rail cars are interchangeable and can travel on each other's tracks.



Hamberger is proud of the North American unity in his organization, as AAR members hail from the United States, Mexico and Canada. Almost like a mini United Nations, but with fewer weapons inspections. One advantage of moving freight by rail is that a freight train can haul a ton of freight 423 miles on a single gallon of fuel, three times more trucks. Sen. Chris Dodd even mentioned that number in a recent hearing on commuter rails. "'423' is not quite 'Got Milk,' but it's catching on," Hamberger says. 



A Pennsylvania native who has three G-Town degrees and is a rabid fan of all things Hoya, Ed is also a 16 handicap golfer who recently made a hole-in-one. Sort of.  Last year he was playing a par 3 hole at Chevy Chase and put his first shot in the water. Instead of taking a drop, he teed off again and put the ball in the cup. Unfortunately, it was only a par technically. However, we will exercise our editorial discretion and call that an "ace with an asterisk."   

Arent Fox
Intelligent Office
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