Railroad Accident Report

Collision of Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District Train 102
With a Tractor-Trailer

Portage, Indiana
June 18, 1998

NTSB Number: RAR-99-03
NTIS Number: PB99-916303
Adopted July 26, 1999
PDF Document

Executive Summary

About 4:31 a.m. central daylight time on June 18, 1998, a westbound Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District two-car passenger train struck the second semitrailer of a long combination vehicle that consisted of a tractor pulling two flatbed semitrailers loaded with steel coils at a highway-rail grade crossing near Portage, Indiana. When the vehicles collided, the second semitrailer broke away from the first semitrailer and was dragged by the front of the train, while the single chain securing a steel coil to the second semitrailer broke. The released steel coil, weighing about 19 tons, entered the train through the front bulkhead of the lead car and moved into the passenger compartment. Three fatalities and five minor injuries resulted from the accident. Damages were estimated to total $886,000.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the collision between Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District train 102 and a long combination vehicle (truck) at the National Steel Corporationís Midwest Steel grade crossing was ineffective action by Federal, State, and private agencies to permanently resolve safety problems at the Midwest Steel grade crossing, which they knew to be a hazardous crossing.

The major safety issues addressed in this report are

Recommendations

As a result of this investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendations:

To the U.S. Department of Transportation:

Eliminate any differentiations between private and public highway-rail grade crossings with regard to providing funding for, or requiring the implementation of, safety improvements. (I-99-02)

To the Federal Railroad Administration:

Work together with the Federal Highway Administration, the Indiana Department of Transportation, the National Steel Corporation, the Norfolk Southern Corporation, and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District to make, within 2 years, permanent engineering changes to the Midwest Steel highway-rail grade crossing that will minimize or eliminate safety hazards at this crossing. (R-99-31)

Determine the extent of the weld quality assurance inadequacies demonstrated by Nippon Sharyo Ltd. in its collision post welds, and implement corrective action as necessary to ensure the strength of the collision posts. (R-99-32)

Require 100-percent nonvisual inspection of all collision post attachment welds made on multiple-unit locomotives and passenger cars during manufacture, and require that inspection records be retained for the life of the car. (R-99-33)

To the Federal Highway Administration:

Work together with the Federal Railroad Administration, the Indiana Department of Transportation, the National Steel Corporation, the Norfolk Southern Corporation, and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District to make, within 2 years, permanent engineering changes to the Midwest Steel highway-rail grade crossing that will minimize or eliminate safety hazards at this crossing. (H-99-27)

To the Indiana Department of Transportation:

Work together with the Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, the National Steel Corporation, the Norfolk Southern Corporation, and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District to make, within 2 years, permanent engineering changes to the Midwest Steel highway-rail grade crossing that will minimize or eliminate safety hazards at this crossing. (H-99-28)

To the National Steel Corporation, Midwest Steel Division:

Work together with the Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, the Indiana Department of Transportation, the Norfolk Southern Corporation, and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District to make, within 2 years, permanent engineering changes to the Midwest Steel highway-rail grade crossing that will minimize or eliminate safety hazards at this crossing. (H-99-29)

To the Norfolk Southern Corporation:

Work together with the Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, the Indiana Department of Transportation, the National Steel Corporation, and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District to make, within 2 years, permanent engineering changes to the Midwest Steel highway-rail grade crossing that will minimize or eliminate safety hazards at this crossing. (R-99-34)

To the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District:

Work together with the Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, the Indiana Department of Transportation, the National Steel Corporation, and the Norfolk Southern Corporation to make, within 2 years, permanent engineering changes to the Midwest Steel highway-rail grade crossing that will minimize or eliminate safety hazards at this crossing. (R-99-35)

Inspect the collision post welds of all Nippon Sharyo Ltd. railcars in your fleet and repair any welds that are deficient. (R-99-36)

Also as a result of its investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board reiterates the following safety recommendation:

To the U.S. Department of Transportation:

Develop a standardized hazard index or a safety prediction formula that will include all variables proven by research or experience to be useful in evaluating highway-rail grade crossings, and require the States to use it. (H-98-33)

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