Second Railroad Joins FRA Risk Reduction Pilot Program

A second railroad is now participating in a major federal rail safety pilot program designed to allow employees the ability to voluntarily and anonymously report “close call” incidents that could have resulted in an accident but did not, announced Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph H. Boardman.

“This risk-reduction program provides an indispensable opportunity to analyze ‘close-call’ events to help identify and correct potential safety problems across the industry,” said Boardman, adding that the pilot program is a key element of his agency’s National Rail Safety Action Plan.

Under a waiver granted by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) this week joins the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) in the Close Call Reporting System Demonstration Pilot Project. Approximately 350 Wisconsin-based CP employees can report ‘close call’ incidents without fear of sanction or penalty from the railroad or the federal government.

Boardman said that FRA currently requires railroads to routinely report a wide range of accidents and incidents. Even though ‘close calls’ are not accidents in the technical sense, they are potentially serious nonetheless such as failing to properly test an air brake before leaving a yard, proceeding beyond approved track authority while operating a train in dark (non-signaled) territory and lifting objects that place employees at risk for minor personal injuries, he explained.

The cumulative results of ‘close call’ reports are being studied to determine areas of potential risk and to develop solutions to prevent and minimize their occurrence in the future, Boardman said. Any reports that require immediate action will be handled promptly. Similar programs already exist in the aviation and mining industries.

In order to participate, the CP, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the United Transportation Union (UTU) each ratified an agreement with the FRA to allow employees to make confidential reports of ‘close calls’ to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

UP employees at the nation’s largest rail yard in North Platte, NE, began reporting ‘close calls’ in February 2007. FRA is actively working with the Alaska Railroad so that it may become the third railroad in this program. In addition, the Bush Administration has requested $1.2 million in its proposed FY09 budget to operate and expand this pilot program.