FRA’s Final Rule on Locomotive Recording Devices Is Inadequate, Says NTSB Chair Homendy


Statement by Jennifer Homendy Banner


​​​WASHINGTON (Oct. 12, 2023) – National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy issued the following statement in response to the final rule on locomotive recording devices published Thursday by the Federal Railroad Administration: 

“While this is undoubtedly a step forward for passenger rail safety, FRA’s rule falls short of our recommendations in two ways — the first of which is by failing to require audio recorders for passenger trains,” said NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy. “We’re also deeply disappointed the rule excludes freight rail entirely. In fact, FRA’s belief that the cost ‘could outweigh the safety benefits’ is an affront to every community that’s experienced a freight or freight-passenger rail disaster.”

It has been over a decade since the NTSB recommended FRA require audio and image recorders in all locomotives, whether on freight or passenger trains. The recommendations were prompted by dozens of railroad accident investigations in which NTSB determined having inward- and outward-facing audio and image recorders would have provided crucial information to the railroads, its workforce, FRA, and NTSB that could have improved safety. In a number of those accidents, the operator died, was seriously injured, or could not recall details from moments before the accident.

“Though many in the freight rail industry have opted to install recorders voluntarily, there’s absolutely no standard for the number of hours of data they must preserve after an accident,” Homendy added. “East Palestine is a striking example: instead of having 12 hours’ worth of in-cab video, as we’ve recommended, our investigators only have access to a 20-minute recording — not nearly enough to help us or the FRA identify critical safety improvements needed to prevent similar accidents from reoccurring.”​

Inward- and outward-facing audio and image recorders that are crash- and fire-protected provide valuable information about the events leading up to and during an accident in determining why it occurred. This information allows railroads, labor unions, FRA, and NTSB to identify and immediately address critical improvements that directly impact the safety of the rail industry, traveling public and communities in which our railroads operate. 


To report an incident/accident or if you are a public safety agency, please call 1-844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290 to speak to a Watch Officer at the NTSB Response Operations Center (ROC) in Washington, DC (24/7).