33:21(Murphy): "...of all the things workers for MTA need to worry about one of them should not be whether or not a train will collide with you as you are doing your job.."
Well, yes Senator, and no Senator. No, no train should ever be allowed into a work zone without the authority of the employee-in-charge. That's the regulation. Yes, Senator, all employees when on or about the tracks need to worry about this.
We, railroad officers, require employees to "worry"--be alert to the ever-present danger and possibility of such an incident. We demand it of them in writing: "When on or about the tracks, employees must (be alert for) (expect) the movement of trains and equipment at any time, on any track, in either direction." I found those words, or words substantially similar in the safety instructions to employees on every railroad I ever worked for.
Because we know that errors, mistakes, failures can happen, we create procedures that become increasingly elaborate to counter the complacency, the comfort, human beings find in routine.
Because we must always be aware, alert to, worry about, the unauthorized as well as the authorized movement of trains we hold job safety briefings, we designate a path of safe egress, we micro-manage the application and removal of blocking devices.
33:54(Murphy): "...we thank God that M8s were on the rails that day."
I'm not a religious person, but when I heard the Senator say that I almost shouted out "hallelujah!"
But I'm not a religious person. We don't have to thank god; we should be thanking....FRA, which after the 1996 collisions at Seacaucus on New Jersey Transit and Silver Spring on MARC took the appropriate, and deliberate, action.
FRA expended considerable time and effort developing, evaluating, and submitting crashworthiness requirements to the rule making process, thereby developing the standards which are effective because they are viable, and are viable only because they are the product of the process.
NTSB investigated both accidents, and issued numerous recommendations to FRA. Interestingly enough, to my reading, none of the recommendations to FRA in those reports address the structural strength of the locomotives or control cars. Nor does NTSB reiterate previous recommendations regarding "crashworthiness."
34:40(Murphy): "FRA hasn't adopted dozens of recommendation from the NTSB because they seem more interested in facilitating the cutting of corners by railways than in investing in saving lives."
Of the "dozens of recommendations" not adopted for the reasons of "cutting corners," the Senator from Connecticut cites a single recommendation, regarding the previously discussed and explained FRA exemption of on-track inspections for high-density commuter lines.
We can search the NTSB for open recommendations made to FRA, and I did so, going back through January 2013 just to get a sense of what's going on here. According to the database, since January 2013, NTSB has twenty one (21) open recommendation made to FRA. Of those, five (5) are "open awaiting response" as they were were issued in late August 2013, some two years after the Conrail accident at the moveable bridge in Paulsboro, New Jersey.
Of the remaining seventeen (16), ten (10) are classified as "open acceptable response," meaning exactly that, final action has not yet been taken, but in NTSB's view the addressed party has responded positively to the recommendation.
So now we look at the "open unacceptable" responses. Of these, two (2) involve the medical standards issues previously discussed.
One involves an NTSB recommendation that FRA require that event recorder data on the lead locomotive also, and simultaneously, be stored at a remote location to reduce the possibility of loss of data due to damage to the lead locomotive.
FRA is, IMO, correct to reject this recommendation. And the rejection does not amount to "cutting corners" rather than "investing in safety" as there is nothing being cut here, and there is no basis for reasonable expectation, much less any evidence, for an increase in rail safety if the recommendation becomes the rule.
One "unacceptable" is NTSB's recommendation that FRA publish on its website the "update reports" it receives from railroads implementing positive train control.
I understand that NTSB is concerned that railroads are dragging their feet, and it would like to see periodic updates. I'd like to see it, too. But FRA's disagreement does not constitute a risk to safety, a cutting of corners, a breaking of the law or any of that stuff.
The remaining two unacceptables refer to NTSB's recommendations that FRA require railroads to install technology on locomotives that will detect the signals emitted by personal electronic devices (cell phones, for example), and also require the use of handheld technologies capable of making the same detection so that, theoretically, railroad managers can what? be made aware of the use of the cellphone without having to get on the locomotive? Or detect the use of the cellphone by an employee not on a locomotive who is in fact using the personal electronic device properly?
Some might call NTSB's recommendations in this area unnecessary, unhelpful, and unworkable. I would. And I'm a kind person.
FRA has prohibited the use of personal electronic devices by those operating trains, and by anyone in the operating cab of a train.
The demand for a specific means of technology to be used meet the obligation, including the reporting and enforcement requirements, can only be justified if that technology is demonstrably superior in preventing the violations in the first place.
And here we get to another problem, and a big one with these types of recommendations-- including those for inward and outward cameras--when translating them into regulations.
Regulations have an enforcement feature; an action that is taken when violation occurs.
NTSB, long an advocate of close-call confidential reporting; long a critic of the "blame culture" supposedly imposed by railroad management; long in favor of protecting employees who violate regulations from the disciplinary process, is advocating technologies, regulations, processes that will be rendered meaningless by its own support for "employee protection."
I could extend my review of the NTSB database, but you know what? Why don't we ask the Senators to provide that review. Why don't the Senators ask NTSB to provide that review? Why don't the Senators vet the open recommendations as to "awaiting response" "acceptable response" "unacceptable response"?
Good questions, don't you think? Right now those questions will be marked "open awaiting response." Can't wait to move them into the other categories; can't wait to see how many move to "open acceptable response." But don't hold your breath. I'm not holding mine.
November 1, 2014
"Smoking or non-smoking?"