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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-03-001
Details
Synopsis: At 8:57 a.m., central daylight time, on May 28, 2002, an eastbound Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) coal train collided head on with a westbound BNSF intermodal train near Clarendon, Texas. Both trains had a crew of two, and all crewmembers jumped from their trains before the impact. The conductor and engineer of the coal train received critical injuries. The conductor of the intermodal train received minor injuries; the engineer of the intermodal train was fatally injured. The collision resulted in a subsequent fire that damaged or destroyed several of the locomotives and other railroad equipment. Damages exceeded $8 million.
Recommendation: The National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration: Promulgate new or amended regulations that will control the use of cellular telephones and similar wireless communication devices by railroad operating employees while on duty so that such use does not affect operational safety.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Alternate Action
Mode: Railroad
Location: CLARENDON, TX, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA02FR007
Accident Reports: Collision of Two Burlington Northern Santa Fe Freight Trains
Report #: RAR-03-01
Accident Date: 5/28/2002
Issue Date: 6/13/2003
Date Closed: 9/17/2009
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FRA (Closed - Acceptable Alternate Action)
Keyword(s): Distraction

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 6/17/2010
Response: Notation 8215: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has reviewed the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), “Restrictions on Railroad Operating Employees’ Use of Cellular Telephones and Other Electronic Devices,” that was published at 75 Federal Register 27672 on May 18, 2010. The NPRM codifies most of the requirements of FRA Emergency Order No. 26, “Emergency Order to Restrict On-Duty Railroad Operating Employees’ Use of Cellular Telephones and Other Distracting Electronic and Electrical Devices,” published at 73 Federal Register 58702; however, the FRA proposes some substantive changes. The FRA also requests comments regarding whether violations of the proposed rule should be a basis for revoking a locomotive engineer’s certification. The NTSB notes that the proposed rule as written contains many elements that will improve railroad safety by eliminating significant distractions for railroad operating employees, but the NTSB also believes that some sections of the NPRM could be improved. Background The NTSB investigated a collision of two Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight trains near Clarendon, Texas, on May 28, 2002. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the collision was (1) the coal train engineer’s use of a cell phone during the time he should have been attending to the requirements of the track warrant his train was operating under and (2) the unexplained failure of the conductor to ensure that the engineer complied with the track warrant restrictions. Contributing to the accident was the absence of a positive train control system that would have automatically stopped the coal train before it exceeded its authorized limits. The NTSB concluded that the engineer’s cellular telephone use likely distracted him to the extent that he did not take proper note of the after-arrival stipulations imposed by the track warrant and thus was unaware of the need to prepare to bring his train to a stop. Based on its investigation of this accident, the NTSB made the following safety recommendation to the FRA on June 13, 2003: Promulgate new or amended regulations that will control the use of cellular telephones and similar wireless communication devices by railroad operating employees while on duty so that such use does not affect operational safety. (R-03-1) (Closed—Acceptable Alternate Action) The NTSB investigated an accident that occurred on September 12, 2008, in which a Southern California Regional Rail Authority Metrolink passenger train collided head on with a Union Pacific Railroad freight train near Chatsworth, California. The accident resulted in 25 fatalities, including the engineer of the Metrolink train. Emergency response agencies reported transporting 102 injured passengers to local hospitals. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the collision was the failure of the Metrolink engineer to observe and appropriately respond to the red signal aspect at a control point because he was engaged in prohibited use of a wireless device, specifically text messaging that distracted him from his duties. Contributing to the accident was the lack of a positive train control system that would have stopped the Metrolink train short of the red signal and thus prevented the collision. The NTSB’s investigation also showed that the conductor of the Union Pacific Leesdale Local had violated operating rules by sending and receiving text messages during times when he shared responsibility for the safe operations of his train; however, any distraction caused by such use did not cause or contribute to the accident. Following the Chatsworth, California, accident, on October 7, 2008, the FRA issued Emergency Order No. 26 to restrict on-duty railroad operating employees’ use of cellular telephones and other distracting electronic and electrical devices. In a letter dated September 17, 2009, the NTSB stated that it was disappointed that the FRA had not taken action to address this long-recognized safety threat until 25 lives were lost at Chatsworth. However, the NTSB acknowledged that Emergency Order No. 26 constitutes an acceptable alternate means of addressing Safety Recommendation R-03-1 and classified it “Closed—Acceptable Alternate Action.” State and Federal Restrictions on Cellular Telephone Use Much attention has been given to the use of cellular telephones while driving a motor vehicle. As noted in the NTSB’s May 17, 2010, comments on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s NPRM “Limiting the Use of Wireless Communication Devices,” Nearly half of all the states (23, plus the District of Columbia and Guam) have enacted bans on texting while driving…. As of April 2010, seven states—California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Utah, and Washington—plus the District of Columbia—had laws banning the use of hand-held cellular telephones while driving. … In September 2009, the NTSB issued an internal operations bulletin establishing a policy to prevent distracted driving by NTSB staff. That policy states that employees may not use any wireless or other electronic device while driving on NTSB business or use an NTSB-issued electronic device while driving their own vehicles while off duty. The NTSB is also aware that, following the [U.S. Department of Transportation] DOT summit on distracted driving on October 1, 2009, the President issued Executive Order 13513, which bans federal employees from texting when using a Government-issued electronic device while driving any vehicle, whether Government or private. NPRM Sections The NTSB believes that the NPRM contains many elements, similar to Emergency Order No. 26, that improve railroad safety by eliminating significant distractions for railroad operating employees when they should be performing their required duties. The NTSB agrees with many of the NPRM sections, including those about Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 220.301, 220.303, 220.305, 220.307, 220.311, and 220.313. The NTSB offers the following comments on other sections of the NPRM. 49 CFR 220.309 “Permitted Uses” The NTSB acknowledges the fact that there are limited instances when the use of an electronic device is necessary. The NTSB believes that the six uses of electronic devices that the FRA finds to be permissible are an acceptable means of permitting this limited use while preventing unsafe distraction. As technology exists today, the NTSB does not envision a need for any other permitted use of electronic devices other than those described in this section. 49 CFR 220.315 “Operational Tests and Inspections; Further Restrictions on Use of Electronic Devices” The NTSB notes that the FRA addresses operational testing by restricting how those tests are performed and by providing railroads with guidance about including operational test requirements in the railroads’ operational testing programs. However, this section does not address acceptable ways for railroad managers to perform operational tests to identify violations of the proposed rule. The NTSB believes that more guidance is necessary to develop a uniform standard of testing across the railroad industry. During its investigation of the previously mentioned September 12, 2008, railroad accident near Chatsworth, California, the NTSB concluded that a train crew performance monitoring program that includes the use of in-cab audio and image recordings would serve as a significant deterrent to the types of noncompliance with safety rules engaged in by the Metrolink engineer and the Union Pacific Leesdale Local conductor in that accident and would provide railroads with a more comprehensive means to evaluate the adequacy of their safety programs. As a result of the Chatsworth, California, accident investigation, the NTSB issued the following recommendations to the FRA: Require the installation, in all controlling locomotive cabs and cab car operating compartments, of crash- and fire-protected inward- and outward-facing audio and image recorders capable of providing recordings to verify that train crew actions are in accordance with rules and procedures that are essential to safety as well as train operating conditions. The devices should have a minimum 12-hour continuous recording capability with recordings that are easily accessible for review, with appropriate limitations on public release, for the investigation of accidents or for use by management in carrying out efficiency testing and systemwide performance monitoring programs. (R-10-1) (Open—Await Response) Require that railroads regularly review and use in-cab audio and image recordings (with appropriate limitations on public release), in conjunction with other performance data, to verify that train crew actions are in accordance with rules and procedures that are essential to safety. (R-10-2) (Open—Await Response) Although the NTSB is concerned about not unduly invading individual privacy, we continue to believe that monitoring train crew compliance with safety rules and procedures via in-cab audio and image recordings is critical. The NTSB Chatsworth, California, accident investigation report notes Concerns about individual privacy have typically influenced decisions about the installation and use of audio or image recorders to record crewmembers at work. However, the NTSB does not believe that employee privacy should take precedence over public safety given the many accidents and incidents, in all transportation modes, that the NTSB has investigated that involved vehicle operator distraction. Workers in safety-critical positions in all industries should expect to be observed in the workplace, just as most employees should expect their employers to be able to monitor such activities as e-mail and Web browsing during work hours. The argument for complete privacy in settings such as a locomotive cab, where lives of many are entrusted to the care of one, is not persuasive. IV. C “Locomotive Engineer Certification Revocation” The FRA requested comments about amending 49 CFR Part 240 to add violations of the proposed restrictions on using cellular telephones or other electronic devices as a basis for revoking a locomotive engineer’s certification. The NTSB believes that this deterrent is a necessary addition and that applicable revisions to 49 CFR Part 240 should be made. The NTSB also believes that any future FRA rulemakings that address certification of safety-critical positions, such as a conductor certification program, should include similar deterrent enforcement provisions. V. “Enforcement Issues” The NPRM discusses the possibility of railroads requiring operating employees to allow access to their personal cellular telephone records if they are involved in an accident and there is reasonable belief that the employees’ acts or omissions contributed to the accident. The FRA has declined to pursue this route, choosing instead to rely on its investigative authority to issue subpoenas to obtain such records. The NTSB believes that a requirement for employee consent would allow the timely retrieval of cellular telephone use records. At the same time, the NTSB acknowledges that there could be concerns about the impact of such required consent on the ability of law enforcement authorities to prosecute criminal offenses that may be embodied in the accident’s circumstances. The NTSB, however, is concerned about the ability to obtain consent prospectively, to enforce a consent requirement after an accident or incident or when an employee is killed or injured, and to issue a subpoena within the context of current telecommunications laws. The NTSB is also concerned that the FRA’s current subpoena authority may not permit the FRA to obtain all relevant records, such as actual text messages, following an accident. Nevertheless, attempting to determine improper cellular telephone use can be a critical part of an accident investigation, and the NTSB would support an effort to amend current telecommunications legislation to permit an investigative body, such as the FRA or the NTSB, to subpoena all relevant cellular telephone records. The NTSB also notes that the FRA’s Emergency Order No. 26 identifies various sanctions for noncompliance with the order. The NTSB believes that similar sanctions should be identified when this NPRM becomes a final rule. The NTSB appreciates the opportunity to comment on this proposed rule. Should you require any additional information or clarification, please contact us.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 9/17/2009
Response: The NTSB notes that, on October 7, 2008, the FRA published in the Federal Register Emergency Order No. 26 (E.O. 26), to restrict on-duty railroad operating employees from improperly using cellular telephones and other distracting electronic and electrical devices. These actions were taken shortly after the head-on collision of a Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink) commuter train and a Union Pacific Railroad Company (UP) freight train near Chatsworth, California, on September 12, 2008, which resulted in 25 fatalities, 102 injuries, and damages estimated at $10.6 million. The NTSB held a public hearing March 3-4, 2009, to develop a factual record for determining the probable cause of the Chatsworth accident and to assist the NTSB in making recommendations to prevent similar accidents. During the hearing, testimony was given that the engineer of the Metrolink train had passed a stop signal while text messaging on his cellular telephone. At the time of the accident, exhibits indicated that Metrolink already had a rule in place prohibiting employees from keeping personal electronic devices in their immediate vicinity (for example, in the control compartment of a moving train) or from turning them on while employees are working. Previously, on May 26, 2004, regarding Safety Recommendation R-03-1, the FRA had informed the NTSB that all railroads canvassed had rules in place to prevent or limit cellular telephone use and that it would be almost impossible for the FRA to enforce any new regulation it might write prohibiting personal cellular telephone use by working employees. At the Chatsworth hearing, the FRA testified that it had identified an emergency situation in Chatsworth that required immediate action and that it had subsequently bypassed all of the standard regulatory procedures and had proceeded directly to issuing an E.O., which has the same force as a regulation and is enforced in the same way. E.O. 26 will remain in effect until the FRA terminates it. The FRA testified that it would need time before it could evaluate the effectiveness of E.O. 26. The FRA has indicated to the NTSB that it does not intend any further regulatory action to address cell phone use by train crews at this time. The NTSB is disappointed that, despite recognition that this issue has been a safety threat for years, no action was taken until 25 lives were lost at Chatsworth; however, the FRA’s issuance of E.O. 26 to restrict on-duty railroad operating employees’ use of cellular telephones and other distracting electronic and electrical devices constitutes an acceptable alternate means of addressing Safety Recommendation R-03-1. Accordingly, Safety Recommendation R-03-1 is classified Closed Acceptable Alternate Action.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 9/2/2009
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 9/14/2009 10:35:09 AM MC# 2090581: On October 7.2008, FRA published Emergency Order No. 26 (EO 26) to restrict on-duty railroad operating exployees from improperly using cellular telephones and other distracting electroilic and electrical devices. The provisions and limitations imposed within EO 26 will be included in FRA's Railroad Operating Practices regulations as soon as feasible, but the current focus of the regulatory program is satisfaction of the requirements of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA). In the meantime, EO 26 is fully enforceable using all sanctions as if it were a permanent regulation. In addition, please note that the Secretary of Transportation is planning a "distraction summit" on September 30 and October 1,2009, to emphasize the need to avoid the use of electronic devices while performing safety-critical tasks in any form of transportation. The Board's leadership in calling attention to this issue is greatly appreciated.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 3/7/2007
Response: The Safety Board notes that the FRA has not decided what final course of action to follow regarding this recommendation. While the Board appreciates that this is a difficult issue to address, there has been little progress made in the 3 1/2 years since this recommendation was issued. Consequently, Safety Recommendation R-03-1 is classified Open Unacceptable Response until the FRA initiates action to regulate cellular telephone use by railroad operating employees on duty.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 8/18/2006
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 8/29/2006 8:31:55 AM MC# 2060430: FRA Response: In a letter to the NTSB, dated May 26, 2004, FRA stated that it had canvassed the major railroads and obtained copies of their instructions, policies, and/or rules that place restrictions on the use of cellular telephones (cell phones). FRA’s review of this material indicated that despite some disparity with respect to the detail of prohibitions, all railroads canvassed did have a rule or instruction that prevents and/or limits cell phone use. FRA also stated that it believed that the railroad industry’s enforcement of its operating and safety rules governing cell phone use is sufficient to address the issue without the need for the intrusiveness of Federal regulations at this time. At a full RSAC meeting held in Washington, DC, on September 22, 2004, members came prepared to discuss the issue of cell phone use, whether their current instructions were for cell phone use, whether they needed to be improved, and whether this was a subject that should be tasked to a new RSAC Working Group. As the Board is well aware, this is an issue that appears in all forms of transportation. FRA pointed out that the proliferation of cell phone technology has now made the device(s) a necessity, but also noted that there are many examples of how the use of these devices by railroad employees in locomotive cabs of moving trains can be distracting. It was also noted that distraction by use of mobile phones is by no means the only potential source of diversion from attention to duty. The RSAC members present at the meeting unanimously restated that virtually all of them restrict cell phone use in one form or another, but also acknowledge that the use of this device allows more effective communication amongst employees, and that some railroads even provide cell phones to their employees. It was also pointed out that redundant communication devices are now required by Federal regulation (49 CFR Part 220), and cell phones are one acceptable example. The consensus of those members present at the meeting was that this is a complex issue and that they were not yet prepared to consider a Federal rule in this area. Notwithstanding, while FRA has not yet decided what final course of action we will follow, FRA will reexamine existing railroad rules and instructions on cell phone use and develop from that review a “best practices” document for discussion with the RSAC. FRA will compare best practices with railroad rules, determine an indicated course of action, and report our conclusions to the Board. Therefore, based on the foregoing, FRA respectfully requests that Safety Recommendation R-03-01 remains classified as Open-Acceptable Action, until such time as FRA determines the proper direction to take.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 8/19/2004
Response: The Safety Board notes the FRA's request on October 3, 2003, that Safety Recommendation R-03-1 be classified "Closed--Reconsidered" in consideration of the FRA's determination that the railroad industry's enforcement of its current operating rules governing cell phone use are sufficient. All four crewmembers involved in the Clarendon accident were carrying personal cell phones on the train, and the Board determined that the probable cause of this accident was, in part, the coal train engineer's use of a cell phone when he should have been fully attending to the track warrant under which he was operating the train. As we discussed at the SWAT meeting on March 17, 2004, the Safety Board does not share the FRA's confidence that the railroad industry has taken sufficient steps to prevent the use of cell phones for personal matters when crewmembers should be attending to the operation of the train. The circumstances of the Clarendon accident certainly suggest that current industry enforcement is insufficient. The Board is concerned that the risks of complacency and attention deficiencies associated with cell phone use are not sufficiently understood or recognized. Unlike some other distractions to operating crewmembers, such as rocks thrown at the train or radio communications, cell phone use has the potential to distract crewmembers for a considerable length of time, and is avoidable. The FRA acknowledged concern and issued instructions to its own staff to watch for unauthorized use of cell phones. However, the FRA also indicated that it believes a regulation would be almost impossible to enforce. In the FRA's May 26 letter, you provided the Safety Board with additional information requested during the March SWAT meeting regarding this issue. The Board is aware that the two major rule books, reviewed by seven Class I railroads and three other railroads, both had prohibitions or limitations concerning cellular telephone use. At the FRA's April 2004 railroad safety advisory committee (RSAC) meeting, the agency requested its railroad members to be prepared to discuss their instructions for the use of cellular telephones at the next full RSAC meeting. The FRA would then determine what actions, if any, the agency should pursue to control the use of cellular telephones. Pending the FRA's assessment of additional information to determine the proper direction the FRA should take, Safety Recommendation R-03-1 is classified "Open--Acceptable Response."

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 5/26/2004
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 6/9/2004 9:04:00 AM MC# 2040281: FRA provided its initial response to the NTSB in a letter dated October 3, 2003, which provided an extensive discussion of the amendments that FRA had made to Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 220, Radio Standards and Procedures, which became effective on January 4, 1999. The title of this regulation was changed at that time to "Railroad Communications," to reflect coverage of other means of wireless communications such as cell phones, data radio terminals, and other forms of wireless communications used to convey emergency and need-to-know information. Our initial response also indicated that the revisions to Part 220 were the result of a recommendation by the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC). FRA's initial reply also acknowledged that there are distractions in the course of normal everyday train operations that could momentarily divert a crewmember's attention. These distractions include responding to locomotive alarms, moving to a place of safety in the locomotive cab when notified of rock throwers in the area, and distractions involving radio communication on a wide variety of both operational and non-operational issues, for which there are no Federal regulations. FRA informed the NTSB that it believes "that the operating and safety rules of the railroads adequately address these situations and that responsibility for compliance rests with company managers and supervisors." Based on the discussion in our initial reply, FRA concluded "that the railroad industry's enforcement of its operating rules governing cell phone use is sufficient to address the issue without the need for the intrusiveness of Federal regulations at this time." We indicated that FRA will continue to closely monitor railroad compliance with their operating rules restricting cell phone use and will not hesitate to initiate a rulemaking in this area, if it becomes necessary. Therefore, FRA requested that the NTSB give consideration to classifying Safety Recommendations R-03-01 as "Closed-Reconsidered." On March 17,2004, FRA representatives met with NTSB staff representatives in a "Safety With A Team" (SWAT) meeting. The NTSB representatives desired to discuss FRA's initial written reply to Safety Recommendation R-03-01, prior to its formal classification. FRA representatives said that should FRA write a new regulation or amend an existing regulation to prohibit the use of cell phones in the cab of the controlling locomotive of a moving train or engine by crewmembers, such regulation would be almost impossible to enforce. FRA also mentioned that it had canvassed the major railroads and obtained copies of their instructions, policies, and/or rules that place restrictions on the use of cellular telephones. As an example, FRA provided the NTSB staff with a copy of the BNSF's System General Order No. 16, issued October 15,2003, that modified General Code of Operating Rules (GCOR) Rule 1.10, Games, Reading, or Electronic Devices, to add additional prohibitions against cellular telephone usage by crewmembers. FRA also informed the NTSB staff that it would provide copies of the other major railroads' instructions, policies, and/or rules with FRA's written update. Enclosed are copies of such material that FRA has assembled from seven Class I railroads, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak), Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), and New Jersey Transit System (NJT) and well as the two major rule books having numerous railroad subscribers: the Northeast Operating Rules Advisory Committee (NORAC) rules and the General Code of Operating Rules (GCOR). FRA's initial review of this material indicates that, while there is some disparity with respect to the detail of prohibitions concerning cellular telephone use, all railroads canvassed do have a rule that prevents and/or limits cellular telephone use. In the SWAT meeting of March 17, an FRA representative indicated that FRA would discuss the subject of cellular telephone usage with the members of the RSAC, and determine what actions, if any, FRA should pursue in relation to this safety recommendation. At the full RSAC meeting conducted on April 27,2004, Mr. Grady Cothen, Acting Associate Administrator for Safety, addressed this subject and asked that the members of all organizations come to the next full RSAC meeting prepared to discuss what their current instructions are for cellular telephone usage, whether they need to be improved, and whether this is a subject that should be tasked to a new RSAC Working Group. The railroad members of the RSAC were asked to provide Mr. Dermis Yachechak, FRA Operating Practices Rules Project Manager, with copies of their current cellular telephone rules/instructions for employees. Mr. Cothen also explained that this new technology aids in reducing overcrowding of radio frequencies, and that FRA wants to take advantage of the benefits that cellular telephones provide to the railroad industry. He also indicated that the labor unions representing train and engine service employees would be asked to provide their input at the next full RSAC meeting. FRA also contacted the GCOR Committee, after receiving Safety Recommendation R-03-0 1, concerning the enhancement of GCOR Rule 1.10, in their revised GCOR publication that is due to be published on April 3,2005. The GCOR Committee decided not to amend the rule. Rather, their position was that each individual railroad should address this cellular telephone issue in its individual special instructions. Therefore, based upon our discussion at the SWAT meeting held on March 17, and the additional information provided in this letter and its enclosures, FRA respectfully requests that Safety Recommendation R-03-01 be classified "Open-Acceptable Action," until such time as FRA determines the proper direction to take at the next full RSAC meeting, which will be scheduled in approximately three months.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 3/17/2004
Response: On 3/17/2004, Board staff met with FRA staff to discuss this recommendation. According to the FRA representatives, FRA issued instructions to their own staff to watch for unauthorized use of cell phones. However, the FRA says the regulation would be almost impossible to enforce. The FRA provided the Safety Board a General Order from the BNSF prohibiting the use of cell phones when their train or engine is moving. Amtrak issued detailed regulations regarding the use of cell phones that the FRA will provide to staff.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 10/3/2003
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 1/20/2004 9:08:43 AM MC# 2030525 The Safety Board's investigation determined that the probable cause of this collision was (1) the coal train engineer's use of a cell phone during the time he should have been attending to the requirements of the track warrant his train was operating under and (2) the unexplained failure of the conductor to ensure that the engineer complied with the track warrant restrictions. The Safety Board further determined that contributing to the accident was the absence of a positive train control system that would have automatically stopped the coal train before it exceeded its authorized limits. As a result of this investigation, the Safety Board issued two safety recommendations to FRA. FRA currently has limited regulations governing the use of cellular telephones (cell phones) by railroad employees in connection with railroad operations. Furthermore, FRA regulations do not place, nor have they ever placed any limitations on the purposes for which railroads may use radio communication, whether it is in railroad operations or not, other than prohibiting an employee operating the controls of moving equipment from receiving or copying mandatory directives. In its amendments to Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 220, Radio Standards and Procedures, which became effective on January 4, 1999, FRA re-titled this part "Railroad Communications," to reflect its coverage of other means of wireless communications such as cell phones, data radio terminals, and other forms of wireless communications used to convey emergency and need-to-know information. The revisions to Part 220 were the result of a recommendation by the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC). A Railroad Communications Working Group was formed consisting of a diverse group of knowledgeable persons representing a wide array of railroad industry stakeholders who are represented on RSAC. In a series of meetings, the Working Group examined extensive safety data, debated how to improve compliance with existing FRA radio standards and procedures, and considered whether to mandate radios and other forms of wireless communications to convey emergency and need- to-know information. FRA asked for comments on whether non-radio wireless communications procedures paralleling the radio procedures in Part 220 should be adopted for cell phones and other wireless communications devices that would be covered under the revised rule. In particular, FRA wanted to know whether non-radio wireless communications had the same opportunities for misunderstanding as radio transmissions and how such procedures would be enforced. After reviewing the comments, FRA decided not to promulgate non-radio wireless communications procedures, since the Working Group did not consider in depth how to ensure the accuracy and completeness of non-radio wireless communications. Therefore, in the final rule, FRA addressed only the testing and failure of non-radio wireless communications equipment (see §§ 220.37 and 220.38, respectively). However, FRA emphasized in the preamble to the final rule that the procedures in § 220.61 (Radio transmission of mandatory directives) should be followed even when a cell phone or other form of wireless communication is used to transmit a mandatory directive. FRA continues to closely monitor compliance with § 220.61 and reserves the right to revisit the issue of non-radio wireless communications procedures, if necessary. FRA acknowledges that there are distractions in the course of normal everyday train operations that could momentarily divert a crewmember's attention. These distractions include responding to locomotive alarms, moving to a place of safety in the locomotive cab when notified of rock throwers in the area, and distractions involving radio communication on a wide variety of both operational and non-operational issues, for which there are no Federal regulations. FRA believes that the operating and safety rules of the railroad adequately address these situations and that responsibility for compliance rests with company managers and supervisors. FRA does not dispute the fact that cell phone use has been shown to interfere with the perception process during the performance of operational tasks. The railroad industry is certainly well aware of these issues and remains committed in its efforts to achieve the highest possible level of crew situational awareness, through recurrent training, job briefings, and more frequent operational monitoring (testing) in this area. Accordingly, by and large, railroads across the country have promulgated, or are promulgating operating rules that prohibit or severely restrict cell phone use by employees on moving equipment and in other situations, such as during switching activities, or when inspecting passing trains. Since the tragic accident at Clarendon, Texas, railroads have redoubled their efforts to ensure compliance with operating rules that restrict cell phone usage during railroad operations. Based on the foregoing, FRA has determined that the railroad industry's enforcement of its operating rules governing cell phone use are sufficient to address the issue without the need for the intrusiveness of Federal regulations at this time. FRA will continue to closely monitor railroad compliance with their operating rules restricting cell phone use and will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action if it becomes necessary. Therefore, FRA respectfully requests that the Safety Board give consideration to classifying Safety Recommendations R-03-1 as "Closed--Reconsidered."