Posts Tagged ‘railroad safety’

OLI Chapters Awarded Safety Grants

April 3, 2023

Operation Lifesaver chapters in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania will receive a share of $230,925 in grants being issued to chapters in 12 states.

The grants are a partnership with the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pittsburgh-based Posner Foundation.

The grants will fund crossing safety and trespass prevention public education programs, which will be conducted in connection with the nonprofit safety group’s observance of Rail Safety Week Sept. 18-24.

The awards were made through a competitive process that evaluated the defined safety need; number of highway-rail collisions and trespass incidents in the state; and how the proposal leverages federal funds with private partnerships.

In Ohio the grant will be used to pay for a public service announcement that will air during radio broadcasts of Cincinnati Reds baseball games.

In Indiana, the grant will be used for safety campaign related to the South Shore Line commuter rail service.

In Pennsylvania the grant will pay for a public service announcement campaign on digital social media and connected devices targeted to 14 counties with high rates of rail trespassing.

NS Launches Safety Training Classes

April 3, 2023

Norfolk Southern Southern said last week it has launched a series of training courses in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia for first responders.

The first course was held in the yard in Bellevue. The course trains fire department personnel on the components and functions of trains. Also covered during the course is instruction on how to respond to a crisis involving train cars.

NS uses a safety train that comes with boxcar converted into a classroom boxcar and several tank cars.

There is no charge to the participating fire departments or their personnel to take he course.

NS offers the courses through its Operation Awareness & Response program.

The carrier said it is seeking to located a new regional training center that will serve first responders in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia.

Ohio Legislature Passes Rail Safety Program

March 31, 2023

The Ohio General Assembly had adopted a rail safety program and sent it to Gov. Mike DeWine for consideration.

The measure was part of a $13.5 billion transportation funding bill.

It remains to be seen if the rules will be enforced because there is a question about whether federal law and regulatory agencies have precedent over state laws and regulatory agencies when it comes to regulating railroad operations.

The rail safety measure would require two-person crews for freights trains and require railroad employees who receive information from wayside defect detectors about potentially unsafe conditions to relay that information to the crew operating the train.

Defect detectors under the law would be required to be spaced 10 to 15 miles apart.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency are being directed to submit reports to the legislature about the transportation  of hazardous materials.

PUCO also was directed to review different types of defect detectors and video surveillance systems and report its findings to lawmakers.

The Ohio Railroad Association argued during debate on the bill that federal law supersedes state law on many rail safety matters.

For example, the Federal Railroad Administration allows wayside defect detectors to be spaced up to 25 miles apart.

The transportation bill contains funding for the next two years of primarily bridge and highway projects.

Under the bill, registration fees for hybrid vehicles will be cut from $200 to $150.

The bill also raises the threshold of how much a local government can spend on projects infrastructure projects by its own public workforce before it must bid them out to private contractors.

NS CEO Gets Another Grilling in Washington

March 22, 2023

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw spent another day in the hot seat in front of a Senate committee.

On Wednesday Shaw faced questioning from members of the Senate Commerce Committee.

As he has at other hearings, Shaw said NS has taken steps to improve safety and continues to provide financial support to the East Palestine community in the wake of a Feb. 3 derailment that forced hundreds to evacuate their homes for several days.

Ohio Senators J.D. Vance and Sherrod Brown make a pitch for support for legislation they have introduced to mandate new regulations of the shipment of hazardous materials by rail.

The proposed Rail Safety Act of 2023 would speed up the phasing out of DOT-111 tank cars.

The bill also would require that first responders have access to real-time data on hazardous materials shipments moving through their communities, regulate wayside defect detectors, limit train length and tonnage, and require two-person crews.

Although Shaw and Association of American Railroads head Ian Jefferies expressed support in principle for the proposed legislation, they also called for a data-driven approach to improving safety.

The two executives supported the faster phase-out of DOT-111 tank cars, better wayside detection systems, and providing first responders with information.

But Shaw said he was unaware of any studies showing that a two-person crew is safer than a one-person crew.

Clyde Whitaker, an Ohio legislator who is a legislative director for the SMART-TD union, said a conductor is an engineer’s eyes and ears, something he said is essential when there’s a problem or a derailment.

Whitaker claimed that NS has instructed train crews to disregard wayside detector failures and keep trains moving.

Echoing criticism from railroad labor unions and others, Whitaker argued that the precision scheduled railroad operating model has led carriers to reduce their work forces so as to operate longer and heavier trains. He said such trains are harder to handle.

Shaw contended that NS is committed to improving its safety practices and said NS is a safe railroad that reduced its number of derailments last year to the lowest level in two decades.

Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, said it may be that mainline railroad accident rates are falling, but yard accident rates are rising.

She said rail remains the safest way to transport hazardous materials even thought some NTSB safety recommendations pertaining to safety practices have yet to be implemented in the railroad industry or mandated by the Federal Railroad Administration.

East Palestine resident Misti Allison testified about the effect of the derailment on the residents of her community.

“Alan Shaw has repeatedly said that Norfolk Southern will ‘make it right,’” she said. “But who determines what is right in a situation like this?”

Two Agencies to Probe NS Safety Practices

March 8, 2023

Two federal agencies this week said they will investigate the safety practices of Norfolk Southern in the wake of a Feb. 3 derailment in East Palestine that resulted in the spillage of hazardous chemicals, a massive fire, and the forced evacuation of hundreds of residents.

Both agencies cited multiple incidents involving NS trains in announcing their investigations.

The Federal Railroad Administration said it would conduct a 60-day supplemental safety assessment in which it will review findings and recommendations of a 2022 system audit and the railroad’s responses.

Among the matters FRA staff will probe are track, signal, and rolling stock maintenance, inspection, and repair practices; protection for employees working on rail infrastructure, locomotives, and rail cars; communication between transportation departments and mechanical and engineering staff; operation control center procedures and dispatcher training; compliance with federal Hours of Service regulations; evaluating results of operational testing of employees’ execution and comprehension of all applicable operating rules and federal regulations; training and qualification programs available to all railroad employees, including engineer and conductor training and certification; maintenance, inspection, and calibration policies and procedures for wayside defect detectors; procedures related to all wayside defect detector alerts; and measures implemented to prevent employee fatigue, including the development and implementation of fatigue management programs required as part of FRA’s Risk Reduction Program rule;

The agency said it also will review the current status of the hazard and risk analysis required by the Risk Reduction Program rule.

In a statement, FRA officials said it will use its findings to determine specific areas for FRA oversight and enforcement and help “identify risks beyond the reach of current federal regulations.”

The FRA’s findings will be made public and will be used to prod NS into developing measures to address risks and identify enforcement actions.

The National Transportation Safety Board cited five incidents involving NS trains that prompted it to launch its investigation into the Class 1 railroad’s safety practices.

Aside from the East Palestine derailment, the NTSB said in a news release that other incidents involved a Dec. 8, 2021, incident in which a worker for a  contractor working with NS on a track replacement project in Reed, Pennsylvania, was struck and killed.

Also cited was a March 4 derailment in Springfield, Ohio, a conductor killed in an incident in Cleveland, and an October 2022 derailment in Sandusky.

“The NTSB is concerned that several organizational factors may be involved in the accidents, including safety culture,” NTSB officials said in a statement.

 “The NTSB will conduct an in-depth investigation into the safety practices and culture of the company. At the same time, the company should not wait to improve safety and the NTSB urges it to do so immediately.”

In response NS CEO Alan Shaw said his company will hold safety briefings, and work to improve its safety culture.

One of those moves was the announcement earlier this week of a six-point program to upgrade wayside defect detectors.

FRA Issues Safety Bulletin on Inspections

January 14, 2023

The Federal Railroad Administration recently released a safety bulletin to remind railroad workers to conduct visual inspections before pulling cars.

The bulletin was issued following an incident in mid-December in Alabama on Norfolk Southern in which a train operating on a main line struck a piece of angle iron protruding from a freight car on an adjacent main track. A preliminary FRA investigation found the piece of angle iron appeared to have been part of the freight car and not its contents.

A worker had repaired the carbody side top cord of a scrap metal gondola car that was starting to dislodge from the carbody.

The angle iron was protruding when the car was pulled from a shipper facility, moved to a yard and then added to the consist of a different train.

The angle iron pierced a locomotive cab window and fatally injured a crew member.

The FRA has asked railroads to review the safety bulletin with its employees “to increase awareness of this hazardous condition that led to a fatal injury.”

FRA Issues Safety Advisory on Unintended Brake Release on a Stopped Train

December 30, 2022

The Federal Railroad Administration this week issued a safety advisory pertaining to issues encountered by train crews who experience an unintended brake release while stopped at a signal.

The advisory recommends four steps to address the unintended release of train air brakes.

Safety Advisory 2033-02 was published in the Federal Register.

The advisory was prompted by a June 22 incident during a thunderstorm involving an intermodal train with three locomotives, 47 loaded cars, and six empty cars, totaling 9,204 feet in length and 7,392 tons in weight.

The train had stopped on on a downhill grade of 0.9 to 1.18 percent near the signal governing the train’s movement, set the train’s air brakes at approximately 12 pounds, and fully set the locomotive consist’s independent brakes.

The train sat for three hours and then began rolling toward the signal as it continued to display a stop indication.

The locomotive consist’s independent brakes remained fully applied but due to the grade, tonnage and wet rail could not solely hold the train without the automatic air brakes also being applied.

As that incident unfoled, an opposing train movement was about to enter the interlocking in front of the rolling train.

The crew was able to stop the train, in part by activating the emergency brake valve and the train stopped short of the signal. The crew then, after contacting the dispatcher, set a sufficient number of car handbrakes to hold the train on the grade.

Among the FRA recommendations are train crews should not expect a service rate or emergency brake application to indefinitely maintain application of a train’s air brakes; if a train is stopped with air brakes set, and the train begins moving, the crew should immediately apply the emergency brake and after the train is stopped set a sufficient number of handbrakes to secure the train from further unintended movement before releasing the brakes and recharging the train’s air brake system.

Other recommendations included that each railroad should adopt and implement an air brake procedure that addresses unintended brake releases.; and railroads should have an operating supervisor conduct a face-to-face meeting with each locomotive engineer and conductor to explain and reinforce the contents of this advisory.

Ohio Railroad Receives Jake Award for Safety

July 1, 2022

An Ohio railroad has received a Jake Safety Award from the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.

Honored was the Columbus & Ohio River Rail Road for its above-industry average safety performance during 2021.

ASLRRA gave Jake Awards to 364 member railroads. To receive a Jake Award, an ASLRRA member must “perform better than the industry average reportable injury frequency rate for railroads other than Class Is, commuter railroads and Amtrak based on date reported to the FRA during the calendar year and must have completed all FRA-required employee-on-duty reporting for 2021.”

The awards are named for the late Lowell S. “Jake” Jacobson, president and general manager of the Copper Basin Railway.

Also winning a Jake award were Indiana-based Gary Railway Company and Kentucky-based Paducah & Louisville Railway

Ohio Police Agency Gets FRA Safety Grant

June 15, 2022

A project in Middletown, Ohio, is among those that will share in grant funding from the Federal Railroad Administration to promote railroad safety.

The Middletown Police Department will receive $120,000 to seek to reduce trespassing at high trespass hot spots, including several locations of homeless encampments along railroad right of ways that contribute to the trespassing risk.

A team of two officers will patrol hot spot areas through four-hour patrols working in cooperation with the CSX Police Department.

The FRA said this week it will award nearly $2 million in Railroad Trespassing Enforcement Grants and $207,000 in Railroad Trespassing Suicide grants.

The funding will be used for what the FRA described in a news release as law enforcement trespass prevention activities and educational outreach campaigns aimed at reducing railroad-related suicides on rail rights-of-way.

The grants are one component of a larger FRA program called National Strategy to Reduce Trespassing and are being awarded to programs located in areas with a high occurrence of railroad trespassing incidents.

The FRA said 25 projects in 13 states are receiving funding. Some grants also were awarded to programs in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

This includes $114,348 awarded to the Dearborn, Michigan, police department, which plans to deploy over the next year a team of two officers on four-hour blocks of overtime three times per week.

The department said in its grant application that it has responded to more than 1,700 railroad-related incidents since 2016.

In Pennsylvania, the Lower Makefield Township Police Department will receive $40,000 to provide 12 hours of police patrol activities each week for a year. The officers will monitor rail lines and the adjacent property in designated hot spots.

The LMTPD has responded to five rail-related suicides in the past five years involving trains of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and CSX.

FRA Finalizes Fatigue Program Rule

June 14, 2022

Freight and passenger railroads will be required to implement a fatigue and risk management program under a new rule issued by the Federal Railroad Administration.

The rule was published Monday in the Federal Register and affects Class 1 railroads as well as Amtrak and commuter railroads.

Those carriers are being directed to develop and implement the fatigue program as part of their larger system safety and risk reduction programs, FRA officials said in a statement.

Each railroad must consult with affected employees to identify fatigue hazards, as well as specific actions to be taken to mitigate or eliminate those risks.

The fatigue management program is mandated by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

That law requires railroads to conduct an annual review of their fatigue management programs and directs the FRA to conduct periodic audits.

The FRA rule can be viewed at