Vice Chairman Hart

Acting Chairman Christopher A. Hart
Board Meeting Closing Statement
Train Derailment and Hazardous Materials Release
Paulsboro, New Jersey
November 30, 2012
Washington, DC — July 29, 2014


In closing, I want to recognize again the NTSB staff for their hard work in developing and presenting this excellent report. Investigator-in-Charge Paul Stancil and the whole investigative team did an outstanding job despite often challenging conditions. I also want to thank my fellow Board Members for their very helpful participation in the process. And once again I would like to acknowledge the presence in this audience of the current Chief, and the former Deputy Chief of the Paulsboro Fire Department, and the Captain of the Paulsboro Police Department. I would like to thank the town of Paulsboro for its assistance in this investigation.

The new recommendations in this report, if acted upon, will make rail transportation safer – especially rail transportation of hazardous materials.

We have asked the Federal Railroad Administration to write a regulation about passing a red signal on a moveable bridge, analogous to existing regulations for passing a broken rail – another danger that clearly demands respect.

In addition, if there is a release of hazardous materials despite the safeguards, responders must be trained and prepared to use the best available guidance to protect their community.

We have also recommended that railroads be required to help communities along their routes to better prepare and train for hazardous materials emergencies.

We have recommended that new risk assessment tools be developed to address known deficiencies in the tools available today.

And we have made recommendations to the State Police Office of Emergency Management and other agencies in the State of New Jersey.

If implemented, these recommendations will help ensure that local Emergency Operations Plans anticipate the hazards that are likely to be confronted in a given community.

Finally, we hope that recommendations that we issued prior to this accident, and that we reiterated today, will also be acted upon.

In 2007, we first recommended that the FRA work with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to require that railroads provide emergency responders accurate, real-time information regarding the identity and location of all hazardous materials on a train.

Today we reiterated this recommendation. We also recommended that Conrail amend its Hazardous Materials Instructions for Rail, to incorporate the same requirement.

Making this communication mandatory across the rail industry will enable first responders to have access to the information that they need.

And we eagerly await progress on another reiterated recommendation, that the FRA require railroads to implement safety management systems or SMS.

An SMS has been defined as "an organized approach to managing safety, including the necessary organizational structures, accountabilities, policies, and procedures."

With an effective SMS in place, a bridge with a history of repeated and uncorrected malfunctions would be viewed as an unacceptable hazard. Instead, the bridge – and its red signal – came to be treated as a nuisance. This Board has seen accident after accident where an effective SMS could have prevented injuries or saved lives.

We learned many lessons for the first time from this accident. Other lessons had already been learned, yet were not adequately heeded, helping to bring about this accident’s monetary and human costs.

Journalist Norman Cousins wrote that "history is a vast early-warning system."

We hope that the events that led to this derailment, and the issues surrounding the emergency response, are treated as such a warning.

If the recommendations in this report are acted upon, we can enable the movement of hazardous materials while avoiding future accidents such as this one.

We stand adjourned.