Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Office of Inspector General’

Report Details Amtrak HR Staffing Woes

December 12, 2021

An Amtrak Office of the Inspector General report has concluded that the passenger carrier’s human resources office lacks the personnel needed to meet the company’s hiring plans.

Amtrak wants to hire up to 3,500 new workers in the current federal fiscal year but its human resources department has widespread vacancies that are hindering the hiring process.

The OIG report said 28 of the department’s 64 positions are vacant and those employees who remain on the job are at risk of job burnout from increased workloads.

The vacancies include three of five department leadership positions.

Although Amtrak is considering moves to address worker pay, the OIG report said the carrier has not addressed other competitive issues.

These include such things as a “time-consuming and error-prone” process to handle requests for new positions. Amtrak HR officials told OIG investigators this results in errors in 60 percent to 70 percent of position requests by the time they reach the recruiting group.

The report said Amtrak expects that issue to be resolved after it installs new computer equipment and software.

A Third of Amtrak Engineers Failed to Meet Exam Rules

November 18, 2021

A third of Amtrak’s locomotive engineers had failed to meet company physical exam rules before the passenger carrier suspended the requirements, the Amtrak Office of the Inspector General has found.

The rules were suspended last August. At the time, Amtrak said the action was a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying having an exam unnecessarily risked employee exposure to COVID-19 and employees were having difficulty meeting the requirement under these circumstances.

The OIG report said Amtrak’s locomotive engineers had to have passed a triennial physical exam that met Federal Railroad Administration requirements before the exam suspension.

Among the factors that OIG personnel found resulted in noncompliance with the physical exam rules were transportation department officials being more concerned with meeting the FRA exam requirements to continue being certified to operate a locomotive, and supervisors not having a process to remove non-compliant engineers from service.

The report said Amtrak expects to reinstate the physical exam rules once the pandemic has fully waned. FRA required triennial exams will continue to be enforced.

The OIG recommended that Amtrak consider adopting more rigorous processes to enforce the physical examination requirement and remove non-compliant employees from service.

The recommendation suggested the vice president of transportation should be directly accountable for employee compliance with the rules.

Amtrak Might Not Finish ADA Station Work on Time

September 10, 2021

The Amtrak Office of Inspector General has concluded that the passenger carrier may be unable to finish a plan to bring stations into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act within its stated six-year timeline.

Amtrak has allocated $1.2 billion for the program. The carrier still has 312 stations in which it has sole or shared responsibility to bring into ADA compliance.

The OIG report said Amtrak needs to develop the requisite planning to achieve its timeline.

The report said Amtrak has established clearer lines of authority, responsibility and accountability for its ADA program, as well as realigning the program based on recommendations from a 2014 OIG report. 

Between October 2017 and April 2021 Amtrak brought 36 more stations into ADA compliance.

However, the OIG found Amtrak’s ADA stations team is already stretched, and without a commensurate increase in staffing and contractors, the team will face challenges in bringing the remaining stations into compliance by the target date.

Amtrak has yet to determine how it will use the current 46 contractors and eight full-time employees who make up the ADA stations team to achieve reach its goals.

In particular, Amtrak does not have enough staff to oversee contract employees it hired to augment ADA efforts. That has resulted in Amtrak staff not being able to adequately ensure that invoices reflect the work that contractors performed. 

OIG auditors questioned $81 million in costs associated with the work of those contractors from fiscal-year 2015 through fiscal year 2020.

Without adequate staff to oversee its contractors, such issues could be exacerbated as contract work increases, the OIG report said.

OIG Finds Amtrak Handled CARES Funds Well

December 21, 2020

The Amtrak Office of Inspector general has found the passenger carrier has made effective use of its federal CARES Act relief funds.

The OIG said there were some flaws in how Amtrak addressed use of those funds for state-supported intercity rail passengers service but otherwise the carrier has been effective in its use of and accounting of relief funds.

Amtrak received $1.018 billion in CARES Act funding and through October had spent about 87 percent of that money.

Amtrak underreported its use of the funds set aside for state-supported costs by about $686,000 out of a total of $97 million, the OIG audit found.

The OIG report said Amtrak’s finance department has since revised its reporting to more accurately reflect the remaining funds.

In another finding, the OIG said Amtrak could more consistently apply its coronavirus paid leave policy.

Amtrak OIG Says PTC Systems Could be More Reliable

December 17, 2020

The Amtrak Office of Inspector General reported this week that the passenger railroad expects to achieve positive train control interoperability with its host railroads by the Dec. 31, 2020, deadline, but can take steps to better ensure its systems are reliable.

The OIG said Amtrak faces two risks that may diminish PTC’s safety benefits.

These include a lack of electronic tools to easily access data needed for it and the Federal Railroad Administration to monitor PTC system performance.

This means reports on reliability are incomplete and the processes to manually compile PTC data are inefficient and error-prone.

The OIG said the risks involve Amtrak’s practices when PTC systems do not initialize before a train leaves a station or disengages while en route.

The report said Amtrak does not consistently follow the stringent practices for PTC malfunctions that will be required by the FRA as of Jan. 1, 2020, and that data input processes contain a risk of human error.

The report noted that Amtrak achieved full implementation of its PTC systems last August

The OIG review found at least twice as many reliability incidents in a month than Amtrak officials identified after reviewing the same source of information.

As a result, the OIG report concluded, “reports on PTC reliability are incomplete and Amtrak cannot easily identify potential problems it may need to address promptly or longer-term.”

Although Amtrak officials acknowledged the need for electronic tools, they told the OIG “they have not fully researched available options because they have been focused on meeting the implementation deadline.”

Amtrak officials also cited funding constraints because of the pandemic.

Amtrak has “invested hundreds of millions of dollars” in PTC, including about $370 million from fiscal years 2008 through 2020, according to the report.

The passenger carrier has three PTC systems including the Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System used on the Northeast Corridor and connecting corridors it owns; Incremental Train Control System in Michigan; and Interoperable Electronic Train Management System onboard locomotives that operate on freight railroads where it is a tenant.

Amtrak IG Calls for Expanded Drug Testing

October 30, 2020

The Amtrak Office of Inspector General called this week for an expansion of the carrier’s random drug testing program as a way to improve its ability to detect and deter opioid abuse by employees.

 The recommendation was made after the IG’s office studied 11,356 prescription and medical claims from 2019 and found 113 that met Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicators of potential opioid use.

The review also found 1,157 employees or about 10 percent of those in safety-related positions, has filled an opioid prescription while on active status thus making them at higher risk for impairment while the job.

The IG report recommends testing more employees and testing for more drugs.

Revenue Losses One of Amtrak’s Greatest Challenges

October 29, 2020

Steep revenue losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are confronting Amtrak with one of the greatest challenges it has faced in its 49-year history, the carrier’s Office of Inspector General has concluded.

That assessment came in a biennial report by the office reviewing the passenger railroad’s top performance and management challenges.

The IG said Amtrak must find ways to protect its resources, including how it uses $3.1 billion in currently available cash, and its ability to manage projects after losing a significant number of managers from a voluntary buyout plan.

“This year, the challenge of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic supersedes and permeates the company’s ability to address all other challenges,” the report said in a summary.

However, the IG said Amtrak also has opportunities to imagine a future that takes a fresh, holistic view of its circumstances and the forces that affect it.

The report is available at https://amtrakoig.gov/reading-room-documents/management-challenges/amtrak-top-management-and-performance-challenges-2?utm_campaign=mgmt_challenges&utm_source=pr&utm_medium=email

Amtrak OIG to Review How Amtrak Charges States for Cost of Providing Corridor Services

July 17, 2020

Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General will conduct a review of how the passenger carrier shares costs on state-supported corridor services.

A memorandum posted on the Amtrak OIG’s website said the audit “will be to evaluate the company’s actions to address longstanding concerns with the [Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act] 2009 cost-sharing methodology and the company’s billing process with its state partners.”

The memo said the OIG may expand the scope of its investigation or modify its objective during the audit.

The OIG said that during the audit it will analyze documents, invoices, and agreements related to state partner billing.

It will also interview Amtrak and state officials knowledgeable about the cost-sharing methodology and the state-supported billing process.

By federal law state and local governments must fund rail service on routes of less than 750 miles.

In the Midwest, the states of Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri fund Amtrak corridor services with most of those routes linking Chicago.

Pennsylvania funds Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian between New York and Pittsburgh and service in the Keystone Corridor between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Indiana once funded the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State but withdrew its funding in 2019 and that service was discontinued.

Ohio has never funded Amtrak service.

Amtrak OIG Calls for Defining the Roles, Priorities of the Passenger Carrier’s Police Department

July 8, 2020

The Amtrak Office of Inspector General has called on the passenger carrier to define more precisely the role and priorities of its police department before it decides how large of a force to have.

The OIG report said determining the optimum size of the force and how it will be used will help managers determine if the Amtrak police force is being used efficiently and effectively.

Amtrak and its police force need to reach a consensus on those foundational issues, and then developed data-driven processes to determine the agency’s size and how its resources are allocated.

OIG Says Better OT Could Save Amtrak Money

October 19, 2019

An improvement of 5 percent in on-time performance on all routes could save Amtrak $12.1 million a year the carrier’s Office of Inspector General said this week.

That would include $8.2 million in reduced costs and $3.9 million in increased revenue, the OIG officials said in a news release.

“In the longer term, if OTP on long-distance routes could improve to 75 percent and be sustained at that level for at least a year, the company could realize an estimated $41.9 million per year in cost savings, and a one-time savings of $336 million by reducing equipment replacement needs,” the OIG reported.

The OIG said Amtrak doesn’t fully and systematically measure the impact of poor OTP, resulting in limited data to use to determine consequences.

In its report, the OIG recommended Amtrak update its methods of measuring on-time performance so that it can more reliably determine the financial impact that late trains have on the railroad.

In a response, Amtrak said it agreed with OIG’s findings and recommendation.

The carrier said poor on-time performance is primarily driven by delays caused by its host railroads.

The Amtrak OIG’s findings were in addition to savings that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s OIG found were possible if Amtrak improved on-time performance.

The Amtrak OIG report “confirm late trains impact every aspect of our operations, from equipment usage and staffing, to trip-time competitiveness and reliability for our customers,” said Dennis Newman, Amtrak executive vice president of strategy and planning, in a statement.

“Extrapolating the results over a five-year period, there is more than $1 billion denied to our state and federal investors because Amtrak customers are not getting the reliable service they deserve and are lawfully entitled to receive,” Newman added.

In a releated development Amtrak released its annual report card that grades each of the six Class I host railroads based on delays caused to Amtrak trains over the past year.

For 2018, Amtrak gave the Class Is’ a “C” average based on the “passenger experience” of late trains and on-time arrivals.