FRA Safety Program Has Had Few Takers

A voluntary program of the Federal Railroad Administration to report situations that could have resulted in serious accidents has received little participation.

The U.S. General Accountability Office said that through August 2022, just 23 of the almost 800 U.S railroads have participated in the Confidential Close Call Reporting System.

The program seeks to improve safety by collecting voluntary and confidential reports from railroad employees describing unsafe situations with the potential for more serious consequences.

Those carriers that did participate in the program found notable flaws in it, the GAO report said.

Examples of situations that could be reported include but are not limited to: a train missing a temporary speed restriction, a train going beyond the authorized maximum speed, equipment or signal failure, running through a misaligned switch, and improper track protection during track maintenance.

Generally, Class 1 railroads are not participating in the program either because they have their own similar safety reporting program or they have concerns about confidentiality.

The program is administered by the FRA and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration,

The GAO report found those agencies follow best practices in doing analysis, but have been less successful in communicating the results, particularly beyond participants, to the wider rail industry.

The FRA agreed with two GAO recommendations that would provide better communication of safety information and success stories stemming from the  program.

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