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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-03-003
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 recommendation to the General Code of Operating Rules Committee: Add language to the track warrant rules to ensure that in territory not equipped with a positive train control system, track warrant authority that contains an after-arrival requirement is issued only to trains that have stopped at the location at which they will meet the opposing train.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Reconsidered
Mode: Railroad
Location: CLARENDON, TX, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: 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: 11/15/2006
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: General Code of Operating Rules Committee (Closed - Reconsidered)
Keyword(s): Positive Train Control

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: General Code of Operating Rules Committee
Date: 11/15/2006
Response: On June 13, 2006, the Safety Board met to discuss the accident report titled Collision Between Two BNSF Railway Company Freight Trains Near Gunter, Texas, May 19, 2004. As a result of its investigation, the Board now believes that the use of after-arrival track warrants in non-signaled territory not equipped with a PTC system should be prohibited, and we have issued a recommendation to the Federal Railroad Administration to that effect. The Board also recognizes that the GCOR Committee was not the appropriate recipient of this recommendation, because compliance with the Committee's rules is not mandatory. Accordingly, Safety Recommendation R-03-3, which was previously classified "Open-Unacceptable Response," is reclassified "Closed-Reconsidered."

From: NTSB
To: General Code of Operating Rules Committee
Date: 4/21/2004
Response: The Safety Board is aware that rules promulgated by the Northeast Operating Rules Advisory Committee (NORAC), under which many railroads operate, have not allowed the use of after-arrival track warrants since their inception in the 1980s. The Board is also aware that two of the largest Class I railroads that operate under the General Code of Operating Rules (GCOR), have discontinued issuing after-arrival track warrants unless the train that is to receive the after-arrival is stopped at a location where it will meet the opposing train. In 1997, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued Safety Directive 97-1 to determine what further enhancements in railroad rules and practices were warranted, including the possibility of eliminating the use of after-arrival orders. The FRA agrees with the Board that, as a result of this accident, the GCOR Committee should consider the adoption of this recommendation. The Safety Board believes that increased safety will not compromise operational efficiencies or create practical problems, as the GCOR Committee describes. Issuing a track warrant that contains an after-arrival to a train after it has stopped at the location where the opposing train is to be met will not cause unnecessary train stops. Nothing in an after-arrival track warrant negates the fact that only one train of one direction can operate on one track at one time. A train must wait for the opposing train at the location of a siding before proceeding on the single track ahead. While it is waiting the crew can obtain a track warrant; this can be accomplished in advance of the opposing train's arrival. If the opposing train arrives before the train that needs a track warrant, no after-arrival is required and a track warrant can be issued to the moving train. I understand that Safety Board staff has discussed this issue with you in detail and you have offered to consider the Board's comments. However, given the GCOR Committee's current position on the issue, we have no choice but to classify this recommendation "Open--Unacceptable Response." We look forward to a further response from you on this important safety issue.

From: General Code of Operating Rules Committee
Date: 12/5/2003
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 12/18/2003 9:34:34 AM MC# 2030602 During its meeting on October 7- 8, 2003 the full General Code of Operating Rules (GCOR) Committee, which represents all Class 1 railroads operating in the western United States and regional/short line railroads operating throughout the country, met and reviewed in detail the factors contributing to the accident. The Committee also gave consideration to the practical application of NTSB's recommendation R-03-3 with respect to the use of "after arrival" track warrants. With respect to the Clarendon accident the Committee concluded, as did NTSB, that the track warrant instructions were complete and correct and that the transmission of these instructions and the coal train conductor's repetition of the instructions back to the train dispatcher were also complete and correct. Based upon these facts it was concluded that the principal cause of the accident was the inadvertence of the coal train crew in exceeding the limits of their authority. In so doing the Committee concluded that the coal train crew violated several GCOR rules, which if complied with would have prevented the accident from happening. They included Rule 6.10 (Calling Attention to Restrictions) which required the coal train conductor to remind the engineer when the train passed the last station, approximately two miles from the limits of their track authority, that the train was approaching an area restricted by the Limits of Authority or the Track Warrant in effect at that time. If the warning had been property made and the engineer had ignored the warning the conductor would have been required to take the steps necessary to stop the train immediately and before the authority limits were exceeded. The coal train crew further violated Rule 1.I (Alert and Attentive) and in addition Rule 1 .I0 (Games, Reading or Electronic Devices) both of which required the train crew to have its full attention directed toward operation of the train and prohibited use of an electronic device (cellular telephone) not related to proper execution of their duties in managing the train and complying with the rules and track authority in effect. Furthermore, Rule 1.47 (Duties of Trainmen and Enginemen) required the engineer and the conductor to be responsible for the safety and protection of their train and observance of the operating rules. Had the rules been complied with the accident would not have occurred. The full Committee further concluded that by implementing NTSB's recommendation to prevent the issuance of "after arrival" track warrants several other practical problems are created including: · Reducing or in some cases eliminating the train dispatcher's ability to issue "work ahead · Creating unnecessary train stops/starts for passenger trains, heavy freight trains on steep grades and trains handling hazardous material · Creating unnecessary train stops in towns/cities, causing public crossings to be blocked that could impact public safety Based upon the foregoing review and analysis, the full GCOR committee has determined that use of "after arrival" track warrants are appropriate and effective operating practices which when used in compliance with the other operating rules provide for the safe management of trains.

From: NTSB
To: General Code of Operating Rules Committee
Date: 9/16/2003
Response: NTSB staff contacted Mr. Rodney J. McCorkle, Chairman, General Code of Operating Rules Committee, and acknowledged that we had received his letter which indicated that the Board's recommendation had been placed on the Agenda for the General Code of Operating Rule meeting scheduled for October 7 and 8, 2003. We asked that we be advised of the results of that meeting and Mr. McCorkle indicated that we would be.

From: General Code of Operating Rules Committee
Date: 8/7/2003
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 8/21/2003 6:13:10 PM MC# 2030430 This letter is in response to the NTSB recommendation to add language to the General Code of Operating Rules in regards to issuing track warrant authority that contains an after-arrival requirement to only trains that have stopped at the location at which they will meet the opposing train. This is to inform you that the recommendation as put forth by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been put on the Agenda for the General Code of Operating Rules (GCOR) meeting scheduled for 7 and 8, October, 2003. After this meeting the GCOR committee will advise the status of the recommendation.