U.S. DOT introduces safety, accountability rule

Posted on February 14, 2008

TheU.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has created a new federal regulation that emphasizes greater accountability for railroad management and employees in complying with basic operating rules.

The new rule is the centerpiece of the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) National Rail Safety Action Plan. FRA Administrator Joseph H. Boardman said the federal rule defines three levels of responsibility and accountability, including railroad managers for putting in place programs designed to test employees for proficiency in abiding by applicable operating rules; supervisors for properly administering operational tests and employees for complying with the rules.

Under the regulations, employees will have a "right of challenge" should they be instructed to take actions that, in good faith, they believe would violate the rules. The FRA will actively monitor compliance with these requirements through inspections and audits, and certain violations may result in a fine ranging from $7,500 to $16,000. In some cases, individuals may also be subject to personal liability.

The FRA undertook development of this final rule after detecting a recent increase in human factor-caused train accidents. Additional impetus was provided by a January 2005 accident in Graniteville, S.C., that killed nine people. The accident occurred when a train was erroneously diverted off a mainline track due to an improperly lined switch, then collided with a parked train, and resulted in the release of toxic chlorine gas from three tank cars.  

For an overview of the operating practices final rule, please click here A complete copy of the final rule can be found by clicking here

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