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AT 8:10 A.M. ON OCTOBER 2, 1967, A SCHOOL BUS CARRYING 13 CHILDREN TO SCHOOL, TRAVELING EAST ON COUNTY ROAD 29 NEAR WATERLOO, NEBRASKA, WAS DRIVEN ACROSS AN UNPROTECTED HIGHWAY GRADE CROSSING 1/ AND WAS STRUCK BY A WESTBOUND UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD TRAIN. THE TRAIN, COMPOSED OF A LOCOMOTIVE, 96 EMPTY FREIGHT CARS AND A CABOOSE, WAS TRAVELING AT 56 M.P.H. THE LOCOMOTIVE STRUCK AND HELD THE RIGHT REAR QUARTER OF THE BUS, DRAGGING IT BACKWARD, AND THEN DEFLECTED IT INTO A COMMUNICATIONS POLE. THE REAR OF THE BUS BODY WAS DISINTEGRATED. FOUR OF THE CHILDREN ON THE BUS WERE KILLED AND THE OTHER NINE INJURED. THERE WERE NO OTHER FATALITIES OR INJURIES IN THE ACCIDENT.
THE NTSB RECOMMENDS THAT THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION: STUDY THE VISUAL EFFECTIVENESS OF THE WHITE, FIXED, SEALED-BEAM HEADLIGHTS ON LOCOMOTIVES IN CONTRAST WITH THE BRIGHT DAYLIGHT AS COMPARED WITH AN OSCILLATING OR GYRATING HEADLIGHT UNIT, A FLASHING STROBE LIGHT OR OTHER HIGH INTENSITY-TYPE LIGHT, POSSIBLY OF A MORE CONTRASTING COLOR.
Original recommendation transmittal letter:
Closed - Acceptable Action
Waterloo, NE, United States
Waterloo, Nebraska, Public School, School Bus and Union Pacific Railroad Company Freight Train Accident
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status:
FRA (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Safety Recommendation History
Notation 344A: Reference is made to the Federal Highway Administration’s proposed rulemaking in Docket Number 69-14, Notice I, concerning horns and other audible warning devices for highway vehicles. It is highly desirable that warning be both deliverable and receivable, in many operations of highway vehicles, and the consideration of this subject is very welcome. The Safety Board wishes to call attention to our prior recommendation regarding this subject. In our reports of the grade-crossing accident at Sacramento, California, and Waterloo, Nebraska, we recommended that “FHWA study the questionable audibility of external sound signals within motor vehicles, both in relation to grade-crossing signals and train horns, and for all other audible warnings which can assist a driver. Such a study should be executed in cooperation with the Federal Railroad Administration, and should be aimed toward creating a unified system of warnings and reliable reception which could be made effective through Federal regulation and State laws.” From the wording in Docket Number 69-14, it appears that our recommendation may not have been considered in the framing of the advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM). The question of the audibility of external signals in other vehicles is discernible in the ANPRM only by implication. There is no indication of any concept of a unified system intended to address the entire problem of existing unreliable audible warnings, and of course that includes a warning systems by means other than audio signals. We believe it is necessary to define the conditions under which warnings are to be receivable, and the definition of these conditions is a substantial task which should precede the final notice of proposed rulemaking for standards for transmitting devices. Among the conditions which should be considered are (1) pedestrians and drivers of varying hearing ability (no State prohibits totally deaf drivers); (2) Interference within signals due to competing signals of other traffic; (3) reception interference caused by engine noise or noise of the receiving vehicle, radio sounds, air conditioner operation, children’s shouts or pet noises, and complete closing of the vehicle window. To meet these problems, the Board has been advised of a number of possible devices including such no radio-operated warning, external sound and sound filtering devices, dash methods. Many of these devices would involve modification of the receiving vehicle, whether the ANPRM… text unreadable…. It should also be observed that warning problems entirely made by audible signals will necessarily increase noise pollution and thus tend to degrade environmental quality. The Safety Boar5d is aware of the contract issued by the Federal Railroad Administration for a study of train visual and audible warnings as related to highway grade crossings. We feel certain that some FHWA members of that group are cognizant of the need for a full approach which includes reliable reception; however, that need is not directly apparent in the ANPRM. It is recommended that the Safety Board’s recommendation in the Sacramento and Waterloo report be included in connection with the formulation of the next notice of proposed rulemaking under Docket Number 69-14. Specific and systematic consideration should be given to a definition by FHWA of the full spectrum of reception conditions which exist, including those mentioned above. FHWA should determine what is needed to operate under existing conditions effectively. Further, other methods of warning between vehicles should be considered, and especially those which do not add to noise pollution. Your consideration of this recommendation will be appreciated.
FRA AWARDED CONTRACT TO COMPUTER APPLICATIONS, INC., NEW YORK, YORK, TO STUDY AUDIO AND VISUAL WARNING DEVICES ON LOCOMOTIVES.
From A. Scheffer Lang, Administrator: This in further reference to the report and recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board on the collision between a school bus and Union Pacific Railroad freight train at Waterloo, Nebraska, October 2, 1967. Four of the Board's 11 recommendations are directed to the attention of this office, and I am pleased to provide our views concerning them. Audibility-Visibility Recommendation number two, asked FHWA and FRA to study the "questionable audibility" of sound signals at grade crossings and to "work toward creating a unified system of warnings and reliable reception." Recommendation number ten, asked that FRA study the visual effectiveness of white, fixed, sealed-beam headlights in comparison with certain other types of warning lights. Both recommendations are relative to the research program which is a major part of the Department's Grade Crossing Safety Action Program, for which FRA and FHWA are the operating administrations. Accordingly, FRA has had prepared several work statements for use as “Requests For Proposals” from research organizations most active and experienced in this area. Of direct interest here is the work statement on a project to “Investigate the Visibility and Audibility of Trains Approaching Highway-Railway Grade Crossings.” Purposes of the project are: 1. to define the performance level of devices in general use on train locomotives for attracting the attention of motor vehicle operators. 2. to demonstrate desirable performance levels for devices which are used to make a train more visible and/or audible to a motor vehicle operator as he and the train approach a crossing. 3. to identify the extent of nuisance under different conditions which audibility-visibility devices would have in rural, urban and suburban areas. 4. to propose devices which will meet desirable performance levels within acceptable nuisance levels. Prior to submission of the work statement for bidding purposes, we are exploring the possibility of joint sponsorship of the research project with highway and railway organizations. Train Brakes Recommendation number seven, cans upon the FRA, "under its authority to regulate railroad brakes," to conduct a study of the present capabilities of train brake systems. Train brake capability data, stopping distance tests, and lading damage experience in emergency brake applications are readily available from several reliable sources. Therefore, I do not believe a special study is necessary. I would recommend, however, that FAA and NTSB staff personnel meet with train brake experts from the railroad industry and equipment manufacturers to review the dynamics of railroad operations and the relationship of speed, tonnage and train stopping distances. I would be pleased to arrange such a conference. Train Speeds In recommendation number eleven, the Board asks Federal and State agencies and the railroad industry to consider “logical and necessary train operating speed reductions under restricted visibility wherever tracks cross unprotected grade crossings” Given the fact that only 20 percent of the Nation's 225,000 grade crossings have some type of special protection, the impact of any attempt to impose speed restrictions on virtually every mile of railroad track in the nation would be catastrophic to the economic flow of rail commerce. I respectfully submit that the Board's sincere desire to help reduce grade crossing hazards is misdirected when train speeds are singled out as a major contributing cause of grade crossing accidents. Adequate sight distance, highway and railway alignment, vertical and horizontal highway curvature, atmospheric and weather conditions, grade crossing surface conditions, motor vehicle ,speeds and adequate advance highway warning signs are among the many factors that affect grade crossing safety more than does the speed of trains. They are factors that can be controlled with little or no hindrance to highway and railway traffic flow. Significantly, the various formulas developed to determine grade crossing hazard indices, give more weight to the number rather than speed of trains. Where train speeds are higher than usual, such as in the high speed ground demonstration projects in the Northeast Corridor, extraordinary attention must be given to all aspects of the grade crossing problem. The Department recognizes the special nature of these experimental runs and is endeavoring to work with the States to provide appropriate protection at all crossings, with the goal of eventual elimination of most, through closings and separation projects. It should be noted that initial speeds in both the Boston-New York and New York-Washington segments will not be appreciably higher than present speeds. In the Boston-New York run, the top speed of 110 mph is programmed for the area in which one private and one protected public crossing are presently located. Maximum speeds in other sections are 90 and 95 mph, which is 10 to 15 mph faster than present maximums. Initial maximum speed in the New York-Washington run will be 110 mph over the 16 public crossings, all protected. The railroad is endeavoring to close the remaining three private crossings. Present train speeds on this line reach 100 mph. Through an NTSB observer, who meets regularly with the Department's Grade Crossing Safety Action Group, the Safety Board has full knowledge of the Department's concern about the grade crossing problem and its program to promote grade crossing safety. I, for one, would welcome an even closer relationship as we direct our common interest toward promoting highway and railway safety.
From A. Scheffer Lang, Administrator: This will acknowledge receipt of the report of the National Transportation Safety Board on a collision between a school bus and a Union Pacific Railroad freight train, October 2, 1967, at Waterloo, Nebraska. The report was released November 8, 1968. The Board has directed four of its eleven recommendations to the attention of this Administration. We are completing an analysis of the recommendations and will provide you with our views shortly.
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