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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-06-007
Details
Synopsis: On December 7, 2003, about 12:12 a.m., central standard time, a Union Pacific Railroad (UP) switching foreman was struck and killed by two locomotives at the UP’s East Yard in San Antonio, Texas. The two locomotives were operated as a single unit under the foreman’s control. He was operating the locomotives from the ground using a remote control transmitter. He usually had a helper. However, the night the accident occurred, the helper position was not filled because of a crew dispatch problem, so the foreman worked alone. He was moving the locomotives from track 32 to train yard track 3, where he was assigned to switch 44 railroad cars. When the accident occurred, the locomotives were traveling about 11 mph and were moving back over the track they had just traversed rather than over the route leading to the destination (train yard track 3).
Recommendation: TO THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION: Require railroads to implement for all power-assisted switch machines, regardless of location, a formal commissioning procedure and a formal maintenance program that includes records of inspections, tests, maintenance, and repairs.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Open - Unacceptable Response
Mode: Railroad
Location: San Antonio, TX, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA04FR004
Accident Reports: Railroad Switching Foreman Struck by Locomotives
Report #: RAB-06-02
Accident Date: 12/7/2003
Issue Date: 6/7/2006
Date Closed:
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FRA (Open - Unacceptable Response)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 5/18/2016
Response: We are somewhat encouraged that, in lieu of the recommended requirement, the recommendations in the draft document developed by the Dark Territory Working Group call for the creation of individual railroad plans for the maintenance, inspection, and testing of certain safety devices, including power-assisted switch machines and switch point monitoring systems, currently in use in non-signaled territory. This is a positive step. We note that rulemakings currently in progress for the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Risk Reduction Program for the transportation of freight by rail and for the System Safety Program for the transportation of passengers by rail may impact the working group’s recommendations. However, Safety Recommendation R-06-7 was issued nearly 10 years ago, and the working group’s recommendations to railroads do not constitute the requirement we recommended, nor do we have an anticipated timeline for any final rulemaking that would satisfy our recommendation. Accordingly, we ask that you provide us with an anticipated timeframe for implementation of the recommended requirement. Pending our receipt of this information and final rulemaking that requires railroads to implement the procedure and maintenance program as described in Safety Recommendation R-06-07, the recommendation is classified OPEN—UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 3/11/2015
Response: -From Sarah Feinberg, Acting Administrator: This letter is to update you on the status of the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) Safety Recommendations R-06-07, R-09-01, R-09-02, R-12-20, R-12-27, and R-13-23, issued to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). These recommendations pertain to power-assisted switch machines, uniform signal aspects, and Positive Train Control. In the enclosure, FRA responds to the safety recommendations and explains the actions it has taken in response to the recommendations. Therefore, FRA respectfully requests that the NTSB classify Safety Recommendations R-06-07 and R-12-27 as "Open-Acceptable Alternate Response." FRA does not plan to take any further action with Safety Recommendations R-09-01 and R-09-02, R-12-20, or R-13-23. Therefore, FRA respectfully requests that the NTSB classify Safety Recommendations R-09-01 and R-09-02 as "Closed Acceptable Alternate Action," R-12-20 as "Closed--Reconsidered," and R-13-23 as "Closed Acceptable Action." We look forward to continuing to work with you on important safety issues. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) consistently monitors and evaluates appliances, devices, and systems intended to promote railroad safety, as well as actual railroad practices involving installation and use of these systems consistent with existing Federal regulations in Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 236, Rules, Standards, and Instructions Governing the Installation, Inspection, Maintenance, and Repair of Signal and Train Control Systems, Devices, and Appliances. The Railroad Safety Advisory Committee Dark Territory Working Group also considered safety technologies, including power-assisted switch machines and switch point monitoring systems as a primary topic. The Dark Territory Working Group met four times to develop recommendations for standards, guidance, regulations, or orders governing the development, use, and implementation of rail safety technologies in nonsignaled territory. As a result of these meetings, the Dark Territory Working Group developed a draft document recommending the creation of individual railroad plans for the maintenance, inspection, and testing of certain safety devices, including power-assisted switch machines and switch point monitoring systems, currently in use in nonsignaled territory. Several members of the Dark Territory Working Group, also involved with FRA's System Safety Program rulemaking under Section 103 ofthe Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA), determined the Dark Territory Working Group's draft document was similar to the technology safety plan component of the System Safety Program rulemaking. Therefore, FRA recessed the Dark Territory Working Group until FRA's Risk Reduction Program (similar to the System Safety Program rulemaking but applies to freight rail) and System Safety Program (applies to passenger rail) rulemakings are completed because their outcome may impact the Dark Territory Working Group's recommendations. At that time, FRA will determine if the rulemakings sufficiently respond to these recommendations or if the working group needs to reconvene to address remaining issues.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 1/15/2014
Response: The last letter we received from the FRA regarding this recommendation was on November 16, 2006. On March 21, 2007, we classified Safety Recommendation R-06-7 “Open—Acceptable Response,” pending our receipt of a timeframe for completion of an FRA review of the railroads’ usage and practices concerning power-assisted switch machines in other than signaled territory and information about whether the review would include power-operated switches located in yards. Because we have no evidence that the FRA has made any progress to satisfy this recommendation since 2006, pending an update from the FRA regarding it, Safety Recommendation R 06-7 is classified OPEN—UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 12/1/2011
Response: CC# 201100449 was closed administratively; no response was written or mailed.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 4/12/2011
Response: -From Ray LaHood, Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation: NTSB Classification and Actions Taken by FRA: Open – Acceptable Response. In response to the recommendation, FRA conducted a review of the railroads’ usage and practices concerning power-assisted switch machines in other than signaled territory to determine whether regulations are needed. Meanwhile, Section 406 of the RSIA (49 U.S.C. 20164) mandated that the Secretary prescribe “standards, guidance, regulations, or orders” governing rail safety technology, including switch technology, in non-signaled territory. This recommendation will be addressed in implementing that mandate. See Item No. 12 in Exhibit A. Actions Needed to Be Taken by FRA: Issue regulations.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 3/21/2007
Response: The Safety Board notes that the Signal Inspection Act of 1937 granted the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) very broad authority to issue regulations and orders related to the safe operation of railroad signal systems or other similar appliances, methods, devices, or systems intended to promote safety in railroad operations. However, the power-operated switch involved in this accident was exempt from FRA regulations because it was in a yard rather than in signaled territory. The Safety Board notes that the FRA has been monitoring and evaluating systems such as power-assisted switches utilized in places other than signaled territory. Prior to this accident, the FRA had taken the position that it believed railroads were voluntarily complying with the requirements of 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 236, regardless of whether the signal or other system was in signaled or non-signaled territory. The Board further notes that the FRA now believes an internal review of the railroads’ usage and practices concerning power-assisted switch machines in other than signaled territory is warranted. The Board also notes that upon completion of that audit, the FRA will determine whether to take this issue to the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC). The Board would appreciate being informed of the anticipated time frame for completing this audit and whether it will include power-operated switches located in yards. In the meantime, Safety Recommendation R-06-7 is classified OPEN -- ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 11/16/2006
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 11/24/2006 10:21:36 AM MC# 2060564: - From Joseph H. Boardman, Administrator: Congress granted the Secretary of Transportation (Secretary) authority to regulate all areas of railroad safety 49 U.S.C. 20103(a). I n the Signal Inspection Act (Act), which has since been recodified in 49 U.S.C. 2050 1 (1994). Congress granted the Secretary of Transportation authority to regulate the installation, inspection, maintenance, repair, and testing of signal and train control systems. Reading these two authorities together, FRA has very broad authority to issue regulations and orders related to the safety operation of railroad signal systems. As defined in the Act, a signal system is a block signal system, an interlocking, automatic train stop, train control, or cab signal device, or similar appliance, method, device, or system intended to promote safety in railroad operations. 49 U.S.C. 20501 (emphasis added). This broad definition likely envisioned among other things, existing and future technological advances, some not yet developed at the time the law was written. Pursuant to its delegated authority, FRA (and previously the Interstate Commerce Commission), promulgated regulations governing the installation, inspection, maintenance, repair, and testing of such signal and train control systems. The regulations were organized into subparts by the type of signal systems listed in the Act and each subpart has provisions specific to that type of system (i.e., the Interlocking subpart described requirements specific to interlocking such as: where signals shall be provided; track circuits; and route locking; etc. as prescribed in 49 CFR Part 236). In 1984, FRA updated the regulations in 49 CFR Parts 233, 235, and 236 to, among other reasons, recognize the latest technology in signalin (49 FR 3374). More recently, FRA published Standards for the Development and Use of Processor-Based Signal and Train Control Systems (PTC Rule), which provide a performance-based approach to the regulation of new signal and train control technology (70 FR 11052). FRA has historically worked with railroads, union representatives, and suppliers to apply the principles embodied in these signal and train control regulations to other similar systems, components, and functions, especially those involving new and emerging technology. For example, during the 1984 rule revision process, electronic controls were emerging in the railroad industry and several sections of the regulations were amended to take a more technology-neutral approach to the required functions (see 43 FR 3374). The latest rulemaking was primarily a result of work by the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) and its related Standards Task Force, a subcommittee of the Positive Train Control Working Group. Throughout these efforts, FRA has attempted to balance the need to make safety-based decisions regarding this newer technology without impairing the development of this field. As a result, FRA has consistently been in the process of monitoring and evaluating other similar appliances, methods, devices, or systems intended to promote safety in railroad operations for the purpose of comparing actual railroad practices involved with the implementation and use of these systems, components, and functions to the long-standing principles and standards of existing Federal requirements contained within 49 CFR Part 236. These other similar systems, etc. include functions such as power-assisted switches utilized in places other than signaled territory. FRA has taken the position thus far that the railroads have sufficiently and appropriately utilized and adopted these various long-standing criteria, whether it has been applicable to a recognized type of specific signal or train control system, or to a similar appliance, method, device, or system intended to promote safety in railroad operations. FRA now feels that an internal review of the railroads’ usage and practices concerning power assisted switch machines in other than signaled territory is warranted. FRA will conduct an audit, and upon completion of that audit determine whether to take this issue to the RSAC. In light of these undertakings, FRA respectfully requests that Safety Recommendation R-06-7 be classified in the status of Open-Acceptable Action.