Posts Tagged ‘National Transportation Safety Board’

NTSB Faults Warning System in SEPTA Accident

December 4, 2021

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation has faulted a warning system for playing a role in a 2019 subway accident in Philadelphia that killed a worker and injured another.

A northbound Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority train on the Broad Street subway line struck track workers in late afternoon on July 8, 2019.

In its report, NTSB said use of a train approach warning method to warn the workers of approaching traffic led to the accident.

The system involves having a worker watch for approaching traffic. At the time of the accident, a southbound train was approaching at the same time as the northbound train.

The NTSB reported noted that trains were approaching the work site at full speed. Trains were not required to operate at restricted speed through the work site.

SEPTA has since changed its maintenance practices to ban non-emergency track work during peak operating periods in the morning and late afternoon.

It now prohibits the use of the train approach warning system for minor track work and dictated that such work will occur when trains are not operating, when a track can be taken out of service, or when a work zone can be established.

NTSB Calls for Transit Railcar Wheel Inspections

December 3, 2021

The National Transportation Safety Board is calling on public transit agencies to inspect the wheels of their rail transit cars to ensure that they meet gauge specifications.

The advisory was sent in the wake of a derailment of a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority train in October that resulted in a passenger being taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries.

The federal safety agency said inspections have found wheels on some WMATA rail cars had moved outward from their mounted position on the axle.

“The safety alert identifies the issue of wheel set movement on transit rail cars and commuter railroads as a serious problem that has the potential to create a catastrophic event,” said Robert Hall, director of the NTSB Office of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Investigations.

NTSB officials said in a news release that an out-of-specification wheel set is not easily identifiable with a routine visual inspection. Consequently, the condition could exist on wheel and axle assemblies of other transit or commuter rail cars.

NTSB Wants Changes in Track Protection

October 1, 2021

The National Transportation Safety Board wants Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration to ban the practice of using watchmen to notify track worker of approaching trains in areas where positive train control offers additional safety features.

The recommendation was included in an NTSB report about an April 24, 2018, accident in which an Amtrak watchman was killed in Bowie, Maryland, when he was struck from behind by a northbound Amtrak train while focused on the movement of a southbound MARC commuter train.

The report said the probable cause of the accident was “Amtrak’s insufficient site-specific safety work plan for the Bowie project that (1) did not consider the multiple main tracks in a high-noise environment and (2) did not provide the rail gang watchman with a safe place to stand,” leading to him standing on an active track.

NTSB noted in its report that PTC systems can automatically slow trains through work zones.

Homendy Becomes NTSB Chair

August 18, 2021

Jennifer Homendy has become the 15th chair of the National Transportation Safety Board.

She joined the transportation safety agency on Aug. 20, 2018, after spending 14 years as the Democratic staff director of the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.

She previously held various positions with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, and the American Iron and Steel Institute. She is the fourth woman to lead the NTSB and one of 11 women who have served as board members.

Homendy succeeds Robert Sumwalt, who retired last month.

NTSB Concerned About Exemption Rule

July 14, 2021

The National Transportation Safety Board expressed concern this week over an effort by the railroad industry to receive an exemption from the usual process to approve trackage rights to address situations such as natural disasters or accidents.

NTSB said in a filing with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board that safety could be compromised because crews are working on territory with which they are unfamiliar.

The exemption is being sought by the Association of American Railroads.

Under current regulations, an exemption cannot become effective until 30 days after the railroad files a notice unless the STB provides a waiver. AAR wants the exemption to take effect five days after a notice is filed.

In its filing the NTSB cited two Amtrak accidents in which passenger carrier operating crews were operating in new territory.

In case, a train derailed in Washington State because it was speeding into a 30 mph curve. In another an Amtrak train struck the rear of a stopped Norfolk Southern freight train because the Amtrak crew misreading a signal aspect with which it was not familiar.

The NTSB said it understands the need for the temporary trackage rights, but that “clear safety requirements are necessary to mitigate the risks” of crew members operating in unfamiliar territory.

Homendy Nominated to be NTSB Chairman

May 26, 2021

National Transportation Safety Board member Jennifer Homendy has been nominated to become chairman of the agency.

She would succeed Robert Sumwalt III, who is retiring from the NTSB on June 30.

Homedny has served on the NTSB since August 2018. Her three-year term as chairman requires Senate confirmation.

Before joining the NTSB Homendy served more than 14 years as Democratic staff director for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.

She previously held positions with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO and American Iron and Steel Institute.

NTSB Chairman to Retire June 30

May 19, 2021

The chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board plans to leave his post on June 30.

Robert L. Sumwalt has served as chairman of the NTSB since August 2017.

He was first appointed to the board by President George W. Bush in August 2006 and has been reappointed by presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

Before becoming an NTSB member, Sumwalt managed the corporate aviation department for an energy company. Prior to that he was a pilot for 32 years, including 24 years with Piedmont Airlines.

He flew for USAirways after that company acquired Piedmont in August 1989.

PTC No Longer on NTSB List

April 8, 2021

For the first time in years installation and implementation of positive train control does not appear on the most wanted list of improvements being sought by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The 2021-2011 list does mention more than 100 safety recommendations associated with the 10 mode-specific safety improvements.

In a news release the NTSB said only one item addresses railroads.

Regulators want to see rail worker safety improved although they have not yet to determine what they want to see.

NTSB Sets ‘Most Wanted’ Hearing for April 6

March 13, 2021

The National Transportation Safety Board will hold conduct a session on April 6 to determine its 2021-22 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements.

The session begins at  9:30 a.m. EDT and will be held online.

In a news release, the agency said the list is used to promote its top priorities for changes that can prevent accidents, reduce injuries, and save lives.

The NTSB statement said the session will address a General Accounting Office report seeking more transparency in how the list is developed.

The meeting had been scheduled for March 9 but was postponed to allow the agency to refine the proposed list.

Collisions Were in Decline Before PTC Widely was Installed

January 19, 2021

The National Transportation Safety Board has for years lobbied for the implementation of positive train control as a way of reducing if not eliminating train collisions.

The agency last week celebrated the completion of PTC implementation on much of the nation’s railroad system.

All railroads that were required by federal law to have PTC had installed, tested and begun using a PTC system by the end of 2020.

However, an analysis by Trains magazine using Federal Railroad Administration data shows that even before PTC was switched on the railroad industry had made giant strides toward reducing collisions.

Collisions on railroad mainlines declined by 91 percent between 1975 and 2018. The analysis found the number of derailments attributed to a train exceeding the speed limit also declined during that period.

Data from the FRA’s Office of Safety show that in 1975 there were 244 mainline collisions, representing 41 percent of the 588 mainline collisions that occurred over the 45 years through 2020.

Mainline collisions had fallen to 100 in 1985 and 77 in 1995. There were 79 mainline collisions in 2005 but just 19 in 2015.

Preliminary data shows four mainline collisions occurred last year.

“With or without PTC, railroad operating practices have come a long way,” FRA Administrator Ronald Batory said.

 “The numbers speak for themselves. And now that we have PTC there’s further risk reduction.”

Batory said among the actions that railroads have taken in the past three decades that have made operations safer are reducing the use of train orders, improving locomotive engineer training and certification, instilling more disciplined operations, and adopting smaller crew sizes.

He expects the railroad industry to continue to become a safer place in coming years as carriers improve their PTC systems. That will include making PTC technology more comprehensive and robust.

Nonetheless, NTSB members who participated in a webcast last week told of how they have investigated numerous collisions over the years that could have been prevented by PTC.

NTSB member Jennifer Homendy said that included 154 accidents that led to 305 deaths and 6,883 injured railroad workers and passengers.

Former NTSB Chairman James Hall said it took a “tombstone mentality” to persuade Congress to adopt a law mandating PTC.

Many say the trigger event was a 2008 California collision between a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight that left 25 dead.

PTC systems are now active on 58,000 route-miles, primarily those that handle passengers and hazardous materials.

The systems are designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, overspeed derailments, incursions into established work zones, and movements through switches left in the wrong position.