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Accident Report Detail

 
Highway-Railroad Grade Crossing Collision

Executive Summary

On May 28, 2013, about 1:59 p.m., a 2003 Mack Granite three-axle roll-off straight truck, operated by Alban Waste, LLC, was traveling northwest on a private road in Rosedale, Maryland, toward a private highway-railroad grade crossing. The grade crossing consisted of two tracks and was marked on each side with a crossbuck sign. The truck was carrying a load of debris to a recycling center located 3.5 miles from the carrier terminal. About the same time, a CSX Transportation Company (CSXT) freight train–which consisted of two locomotives, 31 empty cars, and 14 loaded cars–was traveling southwest at a recorded speed of 49 mph. As the train approached the crossing, the train horn sounded three times. The truck did not stop; and as the train traversed the crossing, it struck the truck on the right side, causing the truck to rotate and overturn before coming to rest on the earthen embankment on the northwest side of the tracks. The first 15 cars of the 45-car train derailed.
 
Three of the 15 rail cars (cars 7, 8, and 15) contained hazardous materials. The other derailed cars contained non-US Department of Transportation (DOT)-regulated commodities, or were empty. The seventh car (loaded with sodium chlorate crystal)–and the ninth through twelfth cars (loaded with terephthalic acid)–released their products. Following the derailment, a postcrash fire resulted in an explosion at 2:04 p.m. The overpressure blast from the explosion shattered windows and damaged property as far as approximately 0.5 mile from the site. The fire remained confined to the derailed train cars. The truck driver was seriously injured in the collision. Three workers in a building adjacent to the railroad tracks and a Maryland Transportation Authority police officer who responded to the initial incident received minor injuries as a result of the explosion.
 

Conclusions

  1. None of the following were factors in the crash: (1) mechanical condition of the roll-off truck, (2) mechanical condition of the train, (3) driver experience or licensing, (4) alcohol or drug use, (5) weather, or (6) operation of the train through the grade crossing.
  2. Neither the mechanical condition of the sodium chlorate hopper car nor its loading contributed to the release of sodium chlorate or to the explosion following the derailment.
  3. The emergency response and fire suppression activities were timely and effective.
  4. Had the truck driver slowed and stopped his truck before traversing the crossing, he could have seen the train and the crash could have been prevented.
  5. The truck driver was distracted by his hands-free cell phone conversation.
  6. Alban Waste, LLC, demonstrated a consistent and serious pattern of noncompliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations from the time that it registered as a carrier until the crash.
  7. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was aware of problems with Alban Waste, LLC, since November 2011 but did not take adequate steps to ensure that the carrier complied with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations or, failing that, to prevent its operation.
  8. Stronger oversight of new entrants is needed to ensure that carriers address safety deficiencies in a timely fashion and are swiftly placed out of service if they fail to improve.
  9. The truck driver had severe, untreated obstructive sleep apnea that likely affected his alertness, but he did not disclose this diagnosis on the US Department of Transportation fitness exam forms and continued to operate as a commercial motor vehicle driver; moreover, though his personal physician was aware of his severe obstructive sleep apnea, on two occasions he medically certified the driver.
  10. The vegetation and sharp horizontal curve near the highway-railroad grade crossing limited the truck driver's ability to see oncoming trains on the approach to the crossing.
  11. There was a lack of clear delineation of oversight responsibility for the design, maintenance, vegetation clearance, and implementation of safety systems at the accident grade crossing.
  12. The US Department of Transportation's efforts to improve government oversight of private highway–railroad grade crossings over the past two decades have largely been unsuccessful.
  13. Because private highway-railroad grade crossings continue to pose a risk to the safety and health of motorists, train crews, and train passengers–as well as to surrounding communities–actions are needed to identify high-risk private highway–railroad grade crossings and to implement safety improvements at the local level.
  14. The force of the derailment likely caused finely divided particles of sodium chlorate and terephthalic acid to combine and react, leading to the observed fire–which likely heated the sodium chlorate within the hopper car, resulting in the explosion.
  15. Although accident statistics indicate that explosions involving bulk oxidizer shipments are rare events, the potential for death or serious injury is significant, and emergency responders should be reminded that derailments involving rail car fires can occasionally have such catastrophic outcomes.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the Rosedale, Maryland, crash was the truck driver's failure to ensure that the tracks were clear before traversing the highway-railroad grade crossing. Contributing to the crash were (1) the truck driver's distraction due to a hands-free cell phone conversation; (2) the limited sight distance due to vegetation and roadway curvature; and (3) the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's inadequate oversight of Alban Waste, LLC, which allowed the new entrant motor carrier to continue operations despite a serious and consistent pattern of safety deficiencies. Contributing to the severity of the damage was the postcrash fire and the resulting explosion of a rail car carrying sodium chlorate, an oxidizer.
 

Recommendations

As a result of this crash investigation, the NTSB makes recommendations to the FMCSA; the Federal Railroad Administration; the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; the Association of American Railroads; the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association; the National Fire Protection Association; and CSXT. The NTSB reiterates two recommendations to the FMCSA and one to the 50 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, the NTSB reclassifies two recommendations previously issued to the DOT
 

New Recommendations

To the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:
H-14-26-29.pdf
1. Modify Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations 392.82 to prohibit any use of a hands-free portable electronic device by a commercial driver's license holder while the driver is operating a commercial vehicle, except in emergencies. (H 14 26)
 
2. Require a full compliance review of new entrants that fail their safety audits, fail their corrective action plans, or are issued expedited action letters. (H-14-27)
 
3. Establish criteria for revoking the certification of any new entrant that demonstrates a pattern of safety deficiencies. (H-14-28)
 
4. Develop a system whereby the authority responsible for issuing commercial driver medical certification will be notified when Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration investigators discover violations that could result in a driver's medical disqualification. (H-14-29)
 
To the Federal Railroad Administration:
R-14-48-49.pdf
5. Require equivalent levels of reporting for both public and private highway–railroad grade crossings. (R-14-48)
 
6. Develop an algorithm using grade crossing inventory and accident history data to provide annual crash prediction estimates for private highway–railroad grade crossings, similar to your WBAPS tool for public grade crossings, and make the results easily accessible to states, railroads, and the public. (R-14-49)
 
To the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico:
R-14-50.pdf
7. Enact legislation adopting all elements of the Federal Railroad Administration's model law known as the "Adequate Sight Distance at Passive Highway–Rail Grade Crossings Act." (R-14-50)
 
To the state of Maryland:
R-14-51.pdf
8. Work with CSX Transportation Company and private landowners to conduct engineering studies of the accident grade crossing (140833J) and the three other private highway-railroad grade crossings (140831V, 140828M, and 140829U) evaluated in this investigation, and take actions to improve their safety, such as removing visual obstructions, installing signage, and altering roadway geometry. (R-14-51)
 
To the Association of American Railroads and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association:
R-14-52.pdf
9. Develop and disseminate to your members a model program for railroads to (1) evaluate the safety of private highway–railroad grade crossings in their territories, including identifying visibility obstructions and other factors that increase the risk of grade crossing collisions; and (2) work with landowners and communities to mitigate that risk. (R-14-52)
 
To the National Fire Protection Association:
R-14-53.pdf
10. Notify your members of the circumstances of the Rosedale, Maryland, crash and advise them of the potential sudden and catastrophic consequences when oxidizing materials are exposed to heat or to combustible or flammable materials. (R-14-53)
 
To CSX Transportation Company:
R-14-54-55.pdf
11. Assist the state of Maryland in taking actions identified by the state to improve the safety of the accident grade crossing (140833J) and the three other private highway-railroad grade crossings (140831V, 140828M, and 140829U) evaluated in this investigation. (R-14-54)
 
12. Until the improvements cited in Safety Recommendation R-14-54 are made, take action to reduce the risk of grade crossing accidents through the corridor comprising highway-railroad grade crossings 140833J, 140831V, 140828M, and 140829U. (R-14-55)
 

Previous Recommendations Reiterated in This Report

The National Transportation Safety Board also reiterates the following safety recommendations:
 
To the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:
1. Require all new motor carriers seeking operating authority to demonstrate their safety fitness prior to obtaining new entrant operating authority by, at a minimum: (1) passing an examination demonstrating their knowledge of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations; (2) submitting a comprehensive plan documenting that the motor carrier has management systems in place to ensure compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations; and (3) passing a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration safety audit, including vehicle inspections. (H-03-2)
 
2. As a component of your new entrant safety audits, review with each new entrant motor carrier a structured process, such as the Safety Management Cycle, to (1) identify the root cause of safety risks and (2) maintain an effective safety assurance program. (H-12-31)
 
To the 50 states and the District of Columbia:
3. Ban the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers; (2) use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration model of high visibility enforcement to support these bans; and (3) implement targeted communication campaigns to inform motorists of the new law and enforcement, and to warn them of the dangers associated with the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices while driving. (H-11-39)
 

Previous Recommendations Reclassified in This Report

The National Transportation Safety Board reclassifies the following safety recommendations to the US Department of Transportation:
 
1. Determine within 2 years governmental oversight responsibility for safety at private highway-rail grade crossings and ensure that traffic control on these crossings meets the standards within the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. (H-98-32)
 
2. Eliminate any differentiations between private and public highway-rail grade crossings with regard to providing funding for, or requiring the implementation of, safety improvements. (I-99-2)
 
Safety Recommendations H-98-32 and I-99-2 are reclassified "Closed–Unacceptable Action."

Accident Location: Rosedale , MD    
Accident Date: 5/28/2013
Accident ID: HWY13MH013

Date Adopted: 10/8/2014
NTSB Number: HAR-14-02
NTIS Number: PB2014-109131