(The Center Square) — Norfolk Southern Corp. and two unions will partner with the Federal Railroad Administration on a one-year pilot program that officials say will enhance railroad safety.
The Atlanta-based company announced the partnership for the federal agency’s Confidential Close Call Reporting System with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division. It initially said it would join the program in March 2023 following its major derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
According to a news release, “covered” NS employees can report safety concerns without worrying about possible discipline. With the FRA’s guidance, a joint committee of Norfolk Southern and labor representatives will “identify and implement corrective actions to improve safety.”
In an announcement, FRA Administrator Amit Bose said the program will provide “a useful industry-wide platform to gather valuable insights from frontline railroad workers when they experience close calls – helping to uncover risks and providing opportunities for railroads and their workers to take actions to prevent serious safety incidents.” However, officials chided other Class I freight railroads for not participating in the program.
In an announcement, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called on “other Class I railroads to back up their talk with action and make good on their promises to join this close call reporting system and keep America’s rail network safe.”
“Railroads have been clear about their commitment to enhance and join C3RS. This commitment remains unchanged,” the Association of American Railroads said in a statement to The Center Square.
“Since then, AAR and its member railroads collectively and individually have engaged in good faith conversations with the Administration and rail labor about strengthening the program,” the association added. “We defer to our member companies about their own reporting programs and discussions surrounding the C3RS program.”
In a statement, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Washington, the ranking member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, called the news “an important initial step for safety” and urged “all Class I railroads to live up to their commitment to help build a safer rail network by joining this important reporting system, and covering all rail workers and protecting communities.”