Tank Cars Top Rail Safety Agenda for 2007, Peters Says

As part of a progress report on the department's campaign to improve rail safety, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters has announced it will issue a final rule to prevent human factor-caused train accidents and complete research for new hazardous materials tank car design standards this year.

Peters noted that preliminary data for 2006 shows the number of train accidents declined for the second year in a row, which dropped 11.3 percent over 2005, resulting in a train accident rate near a 10-year low.

"Our efforts to deploy new technology, change how we conduct inspections, and focus on the major causes of train accidents are helping to improve rail safety," Peters said, listing some of the accomplishments contained in a newly updated progress report on the National Rail Safety Action Plan.

By the end of 2007, Peters said the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) expects to publish a final rule will place greater accountability on both railroad management and labor to comply with these and other fundamental operating rules and help to prevent common human errors that lead to train accidents such as improperly lined track switches, moving rail cars without a person up front to monitor conditions ahead, and leaving rail cars in a position that obstructs an adjacent track.

FRA also will complete a research project into the structural integrity of hazardous materials tank cars and use the information to develop new federal design standards for hazardous materials tank cars.

Peters said she also expects FRA to issue a report on safety at private highway-rail grade crossings, publish a proposed rule to facilitate installation of electronically-controlled pneumatic brake systems that improve train control, and revise agency policy to increase the amount of civil penalties assessed against railroads for violating federal regulations this year.

For a copy of the National Rail Safety Action Plan Progress Report 2005-2007, visit www.fra.dot.gov.

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