The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) proposed a rule Wednesday for passenger and freight railroads to improve the quality of their data recorders to ensure that critical information can survive crashes, fire and water damage.
The proposed rule would establish standards to make sure event recorders survive accidents in new and existing locomotives.
"The survival of data is key to understanding why a train accident happened," said FRA Acting Administrator Betty Monro. "Having a better 'black box' will improve our ability to prevent future accidents."
It would cost the rail industry about $22 million to install the latest recorder models on new trains or retrofit them on older ones, the agency said.
The ruling would also phase out the use of magnetic tape as a data storage medium within current "black boxes."
The FRA also is proposing that improved event recorders collect and store additional data, including emergency braking systems, locomotive horns and text messages sent to the engineer's display regarding directives and authorized speed.
The proposed rule would also simplify existing standards for inspecting, testing, and maintaining event recorders by railroads.