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Railroad Accident Report - Collision of Two Trains near Two Harbors, Minnesota, September 30, 2010 Closing Statement, Washington, DC
Deborah A.P. Hersman
Washington, DC
2/12/2013

​I want to thank my fellow Board members for their participation today. Let me recognize the NTSB staff members who completed this accident investigation and developed this report, in particular, the staff from the Office of Railroad, Pipeline, and Hazardous Materials Investigations and from the Office of Research and Engineering. Mike Flanigon, the Investigator-in-Charge, and his team did an excellent job. I'd also like to acknowledge the work of retired investigator Jeff Leaman, who was the initial Investigator-in-Charge for this investigation.
This thorough investigation and well-documented report highlight what we know all too well: to err is human.
Too many accidents have demonstrated that after-arrival track authorities are unsafe operating practices on non-signaled track. These track authorities are flawed because they rely on flawless human performance. This is why we reiterate – again – our recommendation that the Federal Railroad Administration prohibit the use of after-arrival track warrants for train movements in non-signaled territory not equipped with a positive train control system. And, this is why we issued specific recommendations to the Class I freight railroads to discontinue this practice.
Let me recognize one major Class I railroad, CSX, which discontinued its use of after-arrival track authorities more than ten years ago.
In this investigation, we also saw two recurring issues that affect human performance: fatigue and cell-phone distraction. We have repeatedly seen the deadliness of fatigue and distraction in investigations across all modes of transportation. Operating heavy machinery – trains, planes, ships and more -- requires alertness and full attention. It also requires crew coordination and communication.
Author Susan M. Dodd wrote that, "Luck is largely a matter of paying attention." That may be true for luck, but we know that for safety there is so much more than paying attention. Attention, vigilance, and discipline are key to safe operations. As are practices – practices that address recurring risks we see on our railroads. It's time to prohibit after-arrival track warrants in non-signaled territory.
We stand adjourned.