Safety Recommendation R-15-002
Details
Synopsis: On Friday, May 17, 2013, at 6:01 p.m. eastern daylight time, eastbound Metro-North passenger train 1548, which had departed Grand Central Terminal, New York, toward New Haven, Connecticut, derailed at milepost (MP) 53.25 from main track 4 of the New Haven line subdivision 7 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and was struck by westbound Metro-North passenger train 1581, which had departed New Haven bound for Grand Central Terminal. In the collision, the forward (F-end) or leading end of a passenger railcar of passenger train 1581 struck the trailing or back end (B-end) of a passenger railcar of passenger train 1548. (See Figure 1.) As a result of the collision, 63 passengers, 2 engineers, and 1 conductor were injured. Metro-North estimated that about 250 passengers were on each train at the time of the accident. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the derailment was an undetected broken pair of compromise joint bars on the north rail of track 4 on the Metro-North New Haven subdivision at MP 53.25 resulting from: (1) the lack of a comprehensive track maintenance program that prioritized the inspection findings to schedule proper corrective maintenance; (2)the regulatory exemption for high-density commuter railroads from the requirement to traverse the tracks they inspect; and (3) Metro-North’s decisions to defer scheduled track maintenance.
Recommendation: TO THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION: Revise Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 238 to incorporate a certificate of construction, similar to the one found at Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations 179.5, and require that the certificate be furnished prior to the in-service date of the railcar.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Open - Unacceptable Response
Mode: Railroad
Location: Bridgeport, CT, USA
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA-13-MR-003
Accident Reports:
Report #: RAB-14-09
Accident Date: 5/17/2013
Issue Date: 2/2/2015
Date Closed:
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FRA (Open - Unacceptable Response)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 9/16/2019
Response: In your December 21, 2018, letter, you indicated that you have spoken extensively with the railroad industry, believe that your existing regulations already achieve the intended result of this recommendation, and will not require certificates of construction for railcars because you cannot justify the costs of such a requirement relative to the benefits and cost savings necessary for rulemaking. We respectfully disagree with your conclusions. Issuing the recommended certificate would signify that an independent, third-party validation process had determined that a passenger railcar’s design meets crash survivability criteria at the same level as a tank car hauling combustible liquids, ensuring passenger transportation safety. We urge you to reconsider your position on this recommendation and to take the recommended action. Pending a reply to this request, Safety Recommendation R-15-2 remains classified OPEN--UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 12/21/2018
Response: -From Ronald L. Batory, Administrator: For several reasons, FRA will not revise Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 238 to require a certificate of construction as recommended. As we notified the NTSB in October 2015, FRA's existing regulations already achieve the intended result of the recommendation. Notably, the requirements of 49 CFR part 238 include a substantial compliance assessment process for reviewing new equipment designs, which FRA uses to monitor industry compliance with applicable regulations. In addition, the industry has car construction standards that go beyond FRA's minimum requirements. When a railroad hires a manufacturer to construct a car, contract practice provides that the car must meet industry standards in addition to all applicable regulations. Further, even under 49 CFR § 179.5, Certificate of construction, the party assembling the completed car (i.e., the manufacturer) can supply the Association of American Railroads (AAR) with Form AAR 4-2 to show compliance. The certification program established under 49 CFR § 179 .5 does not involve an independent technical authority or a government regulatory program. Although not specifically stated in the recommendation, FRA understands that the NTSB would prefer independent third-party verification and certification. FRA does not believe that independent third-party verification adds a benefit to the existing process, because FRA provides safety oversight and has the authority to verify compliance at all stages of the manufacturing process and use of the car. When new car designs are being considered, FRA meets with manufacturers and railroads to discuss the regulations before the car-building begins; when the manufacturer tests the final product, FRA must be provided advance notice to witness the test. Finally, FRA will not require certificates of construction for rail cars because we cannot justify the costs of such a requirement relative to the benefits and cost savings necessary for rulemaking under Executive Orders 12866 and 13771. In attempting to address this recommendation, FRA asked the railroad industry representatives in attendance at the June 2018 American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Rail Conference to consider adopting a certificate of construction standard as well as a means to streamline the process to validate appropriate passenger railcar construction. APT A rejected the idea, explaining that this would be an added expense and would further complicate an already complex process. APTA believed that the current process is effective because FRA is involved from the beginning (as opposed to waiting until the car is built to verify). In addition, APT A stated that it is currently voluntarily revising its Standard for the Design and Construction of Passenger Railroad Rolling Stock (APTA PR-034-99, Rev3). The purpose of this voluntary standard is to provide minimum structural standards and to improve the crashworthiness of passenger-carrying rail vehicles of all types. The standard contains structural design requirements for passenger-carrying rail equipment and considers the forces applied to the car body and truck structures during collisions, derailments, and other incidents. In some areas, the APT A standard is more stringent than FRA regulations. The standard also provides instructions and clarifying statements to guide builders. As FRA will take no further action on this recommendation, we respectfully request the NTSB close Safety Recommendation R-15-02. FRA met with staff at the NTSB on October 11, 2018, to share this information and answer questions, so we hope closing recommendations R-15-01 and R-15-02 can be expedited.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 2/3/2017
Response: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has reviewed the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), Passenger Equipment Safety Standards; Standards for Alternative Compliance and High-Speed Trainsets, published on December 6, 2016.1 The NTSB appreciates the FRA’s efforts to update the Passenger Equipment Safety Standards, 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 238 but wants to ensure that the FRA addresses key safety issues previously identified in the following accidents: Miriam, Nevada R-12-41 (Status: Open-Unacceptable Response) Require that passenger railcar doors be designed to prevent fire and smoke from traveling between railcars.2 Background On June 24, 2011, about 11:19 a.m. Pacific daylight time, a 2008 Peterbilt trucktractor occupied by a 43-year-old driver was traveling north on US Highway 95 near Miriam, Nevada. The truck-tractor was pulling two empty 2007 side-dump trailers. As it approached an active highway–railroad grade crossing consisting of two cantilever signal masts with flashing lights and two crossing gate arms in the descended position, it failed to stop and struck the left side of Amtrak train no. 5, which was passing through the grade crossing from the northeast. The collision destroyed the truck-tractor and two passenger railcars. The train came to a stop without derailing; however, a fire ensued, engulfing two railcars and damaging a third railcar. The accident killed the truck driver, the train conductor, and four train passengers; 15 train passengers and one crewmember were injured. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the Miriam, Nevada, accident was the truck driver’s delayed braking and the failure of John Davis Trucking to adequately maintain the brakes on the accident truck. Contributing to the number of fatalities and severity of injuries was insufficient passenger railcar side impact strength. Bronx, New York R-14-74 (Status: Open-Acceptable Response) Develop a performance standard to ensure that windows (e.g., glazing, gaskets, and any retention hardware) are retained in the window opening structure during an accident and incorporate the standard into 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 238.221 and 49 CFR 238.421 to require that passenger railcars meet this standard. Background On Sunday, December 1, 2013, at 7:19 a.m. eastern standard time, southbound Metro-North Railroad (Metro-North) passenger train 8808 derailed at milepost 11.35 on main track 2 of the Metro-North Hudson Line. The train originated in Poughkeepsie, New York, with a destination of Grand Central Station in New York, New York. The train consisted of seven passenger cars and one locomotive; the locomotive was at the rear of the train in a push configuration. All passenger cars and the locomotive derailed. The derailment occurred in a 6° left-hand curve where the maximum authorized speed was 30 mph. The train was traveling at 82 mph when it derailed. As a result of the derailment, people died and at least 61 persons were injured. Metro-North estimated about 115 passengers were on the train at the time of the derailment. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the accident was the engineer’s noncompliance with the 30-mph speed restriction because he had fallen asleep due to undiagnosed severe obstructive sleep apnea exacerbated by a recent circadian rhythm shift required by his work schedule. Contributing to the accident was the absence of a Metro-North Railroad policy or a Federal Railroad Administration regulation requiring medical screening for sleep disorders. Also contributing to the accident was the absence of a positive train control system that would have automatically applied the brakes to enforce the speed restriction. Contributing to the severity of the accident was the loss of the window glazing that resulted in the fatal ejection of four passengers from the train. Bridgeport, Connecticut R-15-01 (Status: Open- Unacceptable Response) Revise Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 238.213 to require the existing forward-end corner post strength requirements for the back-end corner posts of passenger railcars. R-15-02 (Status: Open- Unacceptable Response) Revise Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 238 to incorporate a certificate of construction, similar to the one found at Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations 179.5, and require that the certificate be furnished prior to the in-service date of the railcar. Background On May 17, 2013, at 6:01 p.m. eastern daylight time, eastbound Metro-North Railroad (Metro-North) passenger train 1548, which had departed Grand Central Terminal (GCT), New York, New York, headed toward New Haven, Connecticut, derailed from main track 4 at milepost (MP) 53.25 on the New Haven Line Subdivision 7. The derailed train was then struck by westbound Metro-North passenger train 1581, which had departed New Haven, Connecticut, bound for GCT. As a result of the collision, at least 65 persons were injured. Metro-North estimated about 250 passengers were on each train at the time of the accident. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the derailment was an undetected broken pair of compromise joint bars on the north rail of track 4 on the Metro-North Railroad New Haven subdivision at milepost 53.25 resulting from: (1) the lack of a comprehensive track maintenance program that prioritized the inspection findings to schedule proper corrective maintenance; (2) the regulatory exemption for high-density commuter railroads from the requirement to traverse the tracks they inspect; and (3) Metro-North's decisions to defer scheduled track maintenance. In its review of the NPRM, the NTSB notes that the above safety recommendations are not explicitly addressed in the language of the proposed rulemaking. We contend that the above safety recommendations would significantly enhance passenger transportation safety. The NTSB, therefore, strongly encourages the FRA to clearly incorporate these safety recommendations into the language of the new rulemaking. The NTSB appreciates the opportunity to comment on this NPRM.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 11/18/2016
Response: We are aware that there is a compliance assessment process for reviewing new equipment designs and that you monitor industry compliance with applicable regulations. Safety Recommendation R-15-002 is intended to bolster this process. A certificate of construction for passenger railcars entering into service may ensure passenger survivability, just as it does for the general public when a tank car meets certification requirements prior to service. This certificate would signify that an independent, third-party validation process had determined a passenger railcar’s design meets crash survivability criteria at the same level as a tank car hauling combustible liquids. It would indicate, for instance, that the compliance assessment process is detailed in the regulation. We urge you to reconsider your position and revise the regulation as recommended. Pending such action, Safety Recommendation R-15-002 is classified OPEN--UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 10/15/2015
Response: -From Sarah Feinberg, Acting Administrator: Thank you for your February 2, 2015, letter to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regarding the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) Safety Recommendations R-15-01 and R-15-02. FRA understands that the NTSB issued these recommendations as a result of the NTSB's investigation of the Metro-North Railroad accident involving two passenger trains in Bridgeport, CT on May 17, 2013. The enclosure to this letter contains FRA's careful analysis of Safety Recommendations R-15-01 and R-15-02 and explains the agency's findings with regard to the enactment of these recommendations. As explained below, FRA recognizes the importance of structurally sound passenger cars and has ensured that our Federal regulations achieve the safety result you recommend. FRA believes it has achieved the intent of this recommendation and does not plan to take further action with regard to either recommendation at this time. FRA believes that the technical standards of 49 CFR Part 238, Passenger Equipment Safety Standards, are of great importance and notes that it has a substantial compliance assessment process for reviewing new equipment designs. Pursuant to its compliance assessment program, FRA monitors industry compliance with the applicable regulations. FRA thoroughly reviewed its regulation and found that 49 CFR Part 238 supports Tier I (conventional-speed) passenger equipment built to the existing requirements. Since 2011, due to the number of variations of cars, FRA established a more formal program to track and approve car designs. FRA uses a compliance assessment program, in which FRA works with the railroad and the manufacturers, walking them through what is required and regularly reviewing design progress to ensure compliance. Specifically, as the parties hit key design milestones, FRA reviews their work to ensure it is in compliance. FRA has specific team dedicated to reviewing these submissions. The standards are outlined in 49 C R Parts 238 and 229, Railroad Locomotive Safety Standards. If the car design does not meet the standards, the railroad is not allowed to offer the car into transportation and FRA may use its enforcement authority to ensure compliance. In addition to enforcing the existing regulations, F continues to update its compliance manual and guidance as it identities issues of ambiguity or potential clarification as designs continue to evolve. FRA has determined that this is a manageable system that provided a means to ensure compliance with existing regulations and design standards. In addition to the compliance assessment process, if the equipment is nonconventional (alternative to the U.S. standard), a special approval process exists under 49 CFR art 238. This approval ensures that designs that fall outside of the existing standards provide an equivalent level of safety. Finally, FRA believes that the current compliance process provides an appropriate approval process for the reasons stated below. The certification program established under 9 CFR Part 179, Specifications for Tank Cars, does not involve an independent technical authority or a government regulatory program. Rather, the certification program is incorporated by reference and relies upon a railroad industry association program. Per 49 CFR § 179.5, Certificate of construction, the party assembling the completed car (i.e., the manufacturer) is allowed to supply the Association of American Railroads (AAR) with Form AAR 4-2, showing compliance. At this time, there is no such railroad industry association program relating to passenger rail equipment. Moreover, a certification program, such as the one referenced, would need to be robust enough to address all design variations. Thus, the compliance process is more appropriate. A certification program of this magnitude would require a level of staffing and funding that are currently outside FRA's resources.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 8/4/2015
Response: We are encouraged to learn that your Motive Power and Equipment Division is currently gathering information and conducting research prior to determining your course of action to address these recommendations. We look forward to hearing from you regarding your plans for implementing them. Pending our receipt of a detailed response indicating how the FRA will address Safety Recommendations R-15-01 and -02, they remain classified OPEN—AWAIT RESPONSE.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 5/5/2015
Response: -From Robert C. Lauby, Associate Administrator for Railroad Safety, Chief Safety Officer: Thank you for your February 2, 2015, letter to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regarding the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) Safety Recommendations R-15-01 and R-15-02. FRA understands that the NTSB issued these recommendations as a result of the NTSB's investigation into the derailment and subsequent collision of two Metro North Railroad (Metro-North) passenger trains in Bridgeport, CT, on May 17, 2013. Safety Recommendation R-15-01 asks FRA to "revise Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Section 238.213, Corner posts, to require the existing forward-end corner post strength requirements for the back-end corner posts of passenger railcars." Safety Recommendation R-15-02 asks FRA to "revise 49 CFR Part 238, Passenger Equipment Safety Standards, to incorporate a certificate of construction, similar to the one found at 49 CFR § 179.5, Certificate of construction, and require that the certificate be furnished prior to the in-service date of the railcar." Title 49 U.S.C Section 1135 states, "the Secretary [of Transportation] shall give to the [NTSB] a formal written response to each recommendation not later than 90 days after receiving the recommendation." This letter acknowledges receipt of these recommendations to FRA. FRA's Motive Power and Equipment Division is currently gathering information and conducting research to enable FRA to fully address these recommendations. FRA takes these recommendations seriously, and assures the NTSB that a complete and thorough investigation will be reflected in its final response. We look forward to continuing to work with you on important safety issues.