Five Freight Train Collisions in 2011 Prompt NTSB to Issue Safety Recommendations to FRA

All five recommendations focus on the need for railroads to disseminate information related to these accidents to their employees and to emphasize the need for crewmembers to operate trains in accordance with restricted speed operating rules, NTSB said.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently issued two safety recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) related to five rear-end collisions in which crewmembers failed to operate their trains at the required restricted speed. Related recommendations were also issued to the Association of American Railroads, the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and the United Transportation Union.

All five recommendations focus on the need for railroads to disseminate information related to these accidents to their employees and to emphasize the need for crewmembers to operate trains in accordance with restricted speed operating rules, NTSB said.

The five accidents include:

  • April 17, 2011, Red Oak, Iowa , BNSF
  • May 21, 2011, Low Moor, Va., CSX
  • May 24, 2011, Mineral Springs, N.C., CSX
  • July 6, 2011, DeWitt, N.Y., CSX
  • Aug. 19, 2011, DeKalb, Ind., Norfolk Southern

The accidents in Red Oak and Mineral Springs resulted in crewmember fatalities and are still under investigation by NTSB. Four of the five accidents occurred on railroad lines over which Amtrak passenger trains operate.

Because these accidents occurred on different railroads and under different circumstances, NTSB said is concerned that noncompliance with restricted speed requirements may be an issue affecting a broad segment of the U.S. railroad industry.

Signal systems provide for the safe separation between trains. However, there are times when trains are authorized to occupy the same sections of track. In these cases, safe train operations rely solely on crewmember compliance with the railroad's restricted speed requirements.

Typically, these requirements include "being prepared to stop within one-half the range of vision."

The safety recommendation letters may be found here: http://www.ntsb.gov/safety/safety_recs.html.

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