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On Saturday, May 27, 2000, about 11:48 a.m., 33 of the 113 cars making up eastbound Union Pacific Railroad (UP) train QFPLI-26 derailed near Eunice, Louisiana. Of the derailed cars, 15 contained hazardous materials and 2 contained hazardous materials residue. The derailment resulted in a release of hazardous materials with explosions and fire. About 3,500 people were evacuated from the surrounding area, which included some of the business area of Eunice. No one was injured during the derailment of the train or the subsequent release of hazardous materials. Total damages exceeded $35 million.
The NTSB recommends that the Federal Railroad Administration: Modify your track inspection program to incorporate the volume of hazardous materials shipments made over the tracks in determining the frequency and type of track inspections.
Original recommendation transmittal letter:
Closed - Acceptable Action
Eunice, LA, United States
Derailment of Union Pacific Railroad Train QFPLI-26
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status:
FRA (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Safety Recommendation History
You noted that Part IV, Chapter Two of the FRA's Safety Assurance and Compliance Program General Manual addresses factors to consider in allocating track inspection resources, among them is the type of commodities transported, such as hazardous materials or passengers. We note that to more effectively implement this policy on the allocation of track inspection resources, the FRA is engaged in activities to identify and describe those routes where hazardous materials are hauled, including the type and volume of hazardous materials being hauled. One initiative is to use the data from the FRA's Regional Inspection Points Program to adjust information relative to heavy tonnage routes likely to support large volumes of hazardous materials shipments that have been identified by the FRA's 2-percent waybill sampling initiative. Another initiative is the gathering of information on "Key Trains" and "Key Routes" from the individual railroads-terms that have been defined by the Association of American Railroads to characterize the type and volume of hazardous materials being transported over particular routes. In view of the FRA's existing program and its initiatives to improve adherence to its policies, Safety Recommendation R-02-13 is classified "Closed--Acceptable Action." The Safety Board notes your concern regarding the Board's last conclusion in the report, which stated that "The frequency and type of track inspections routinely performed by the Federal Railroad Administration on the Beaumont Subdivision were inappropriate given the fact that this was a key route that carried large volumes of hazardous materials." You state the following: In this regard, I would like to point out that the FRA does not conduct routine inspections of any particular railroad track or facility...I must therefore disagree with the conclusion reached by the Safety Board that the level of 'routine inspection' performed by FRA on the Beaumont Subdivision was inappropriate. We note from your comments that you are concerned with the term "routine inspection." Our concern, as stated in the text of the report, is that the FRA had not conducted a regular track inspection on the Beaumont Subdivision in the 13 months prior to the derailment. We fully understand that the FRA inspection, in part, is to determine the carrier's compliance with the regulations and that it is the carrier's responsibility to comply with these regulations. We acknowledge that the FRA conducted a track geometry car inspection before the derailment, but that inspection did not, nor was it designed to, detect track component defects-such as fatigue cracks in joint bars or defective crossties-that did not affect track geometry. We believe that 13 months without a regular inspection was an inordinately long time, given the hazardous materials commodities hauled over this line. We also note that page 3 of the FRA's Safety Assurance and Compliance Program General Manual states, "Before beginning a routine inspection, inspectors..." Consequently, the term "routine inspections" does not seem inappropriate in our conclusion. I hope that this has clarified the issue addressed in the report's conclusions.
Letter Mail Controlled 10/23/2002 1:02:12 PM MC# 2020888 FRA has always considered the level of hazardous materials traffic as a major factor when establishing priorities necessary to efficiently allocate the agency's inspection forces to accomplish its safety enforcement and monitoring program. This policy is currently defined in Part IV, Chapter Two of FRA's Safety Assurance and Compliance Program General Manual. I am enclosing a copy of Chapter Two, Inspection Preparations, for your ready reference. Under the heading of "Allocation of Resources: Prioritization" please note that FRA headquarters and regional offices review and evaluate data to identify high-risk locations which should receive priority, and among the factors considered is the type of commodities transported, i.e., hazardous materials, and passengers. To implement this prioritization policy more effectively, FRA is engaged in two improvement efforts to identify and describe those routes where hazardous materials are hauled, including the type and volume of hazardous materials traffic on those routes. First, FRA is using the data from its Regional Inspection Points Program to adjust the information relative to heavy tonnage routes likely to support large volumes of hazardous materials shipments which have been identified by FRA's two-percent waybill sampling initiative. Second, FRA is gathering information on "Key Trains" and "Key Routes" from the individual railroads. These terms have been defined by the Association of American Railroads to characterize the type and volume of hazardous materials being transported over particular routes.
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