New Federal Rule Aims to Reduce Human Error As Cause of Train Accidents

ATLANTA – Visiting a railroad employee training facility in Atlanta, Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Joseph H. Boardman announced March 2 that his agency intends to issue regulations to address the most common human errors that cause train accidents.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is accelerating development of a rule that will focus on reducing the most common human errors such as improperly lined track switches, shoving or pushing rail cars without properly monitoring for safe conditions, and leaving rail cars in a position that obstruct an adjacent track, Boardman said. The proposed regulations will be published by September 2006.

“The new regulation will provide additional enforcement authority over violations of common operating practice errors,” said Boardman. “This effort is one of many aggressive steps we are taking to prevent train accidents from occurring in the first place,” he added.

Human factors are the leading cause of train accidents, accounting for 38 percent of the total, Boardman said. The new rule would be the first significant update of Federal regulations governing railroad employee adherence to operating rules. FRA also is actively working on other initiatives to reduce human factor-caused train accidents including a pilot project to study ‘close calls’—or events that do not result in an accident, but could have, and research to address railroad worker fatigue to improve train crew scheduling practices.

Since the National Rail Safety Action Plan was unveiled in May 2005 by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, FRA has made significant progress on each of its specific elements including reducing human factor-caused train accidents, addressing fatigue among railroad operating employees, improving track safety, enhancing hazardous materials safety and emergency response preparedness, and improving highway-rail grade crossing safety.

Boardman made today’s announcement while touring CSX Transportation’s state-of-the-art Railroad Education & Development Institute (REDI).