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On Friday, August 17, 2014, at 2:28 a.m. central daylight time, southbound UP freight train MASNL collided with northbound UP freight train QNLPI at milepost (MP) 228.6 while traversing the turnout at Control Point CP-Y 229 on the UP Hoxie Subdivision in Hoxie, Arkansas.1 The track in the area transitions from a single main track to two main tracks. As a result of the collision, the engineer and the conductor from the southbound train were fatally injured, and the engineer and the conductor from the northbound train were transported to local hospitals on the day of the accident with serious injuries. About500people within a 1.5-mile radius of the derailment were evacuated. The southbound train consisted of two leading locomotives and 86 cars. The northbound train consisted of two leading locomotives and 92 cars. The lead locomotives from both trains derailed, and the second locomotive from the northbound train released diesel fuel, resulting in a fire. In total, 55 cars derailed, including 41 cars from the southbound train and 14 cars from the northbound train. The maximum authorized speed in the area is 70 mph for freight trains and 75 mph for passenger trains. Amtrak passenger trains operate over this segment of the UP Hoxie Subdivision. The maximum authorized speed through the turnout from main track no. 1 to main 2 track no. 2 is 40 mph for both freight and passenger trains. There were no temporary speed restrictions at the point of collision on the day of the accident.
TO THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION: Review your existing regulations and your motive power and equipment compliance manual, and revise them as needed to prohibit automatic systems from resetting the locomotive alerter. (Urgent)
Original recommendation transmittal letter:
Closed - Acceptable Action
Hoxie, AR, United States
Railroad Accident Report: Collision of Two Union Pacific Railroad Freight Trains
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status:
FRA (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Safety Recommendation History
On April 30, 2018, you issued Technical Bulletin Motive Power and Equipment (MP&E) 18-01 (TB18-01), “Enforcement Guidance for Requiring a Manual Reset to Restart the Alerter Warning Timing Cycle.” We note that this document is available to your inspectors, railroads, and the public on your website, and that you will include it in the next revision of your MP&E Compliance Manual. The publication of this guidance satisfies the intent of Safety Recommendation R-15-4, which is classified CLOSED--ACCEPTABLE ACTION.
-From Ronald L. Batory, Administrator: In November 2016, the NTSB classified Safety Recommendation R-15-04 as .. Open Acceptable Response" based on FRA's plan to revise the Motive Power and Equipment (MP&E) Compliance Manual to address prohibiting automatic systems from resetting locomotive alerters. The MP&E Compliance Manual is revised periodically, with multiple changes incorporated at once. To ensure updated and accurate information is available between complete revisions, technical bulletins serve as intermediate updates to the manual. On April 30, 2018, FRA issued Technical Bulletin MP&E 18-01(TB18-01), titled Enforcement Guidance for requiring a manual reset to restart the alerter warning liming cycle. TB 18-01 is included as an enclosure to this letter and is available to FRA inspectors, railroads, and the public at this address: https://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/details/Ll 9703#pl z5 gD lCT. As is FRA's normal process, the substance of TB 18-01 will be included in the full MP&E Compliance Manual when it is next revised. As the issuance of this TB is the fastest way to disseminate guidance for requiring a manual reset to restart the alerter timing cycle, and the TB's guidance will be incorporated into the next revision of the Compliance Manual, FRA has fulfilled the NTSB's recommendation to address prohibiting automatic systems from resetting locomotive alerters, and respectfully requests the NTSB classify Safety Recommendation R-15-04 as "Closed-Acceptable Action." I appreciate your interest in this important safety issue. If FRA can provide additional information or assistance, please contact Mr. Robert C. Lauby, Associate Administrator for Railroad Safety and Chief Safety Officer.
Safety Recommendation R-15-004 stipulates that the motive power and equipment compliance manual be revised to address prohibiting automatic systems from resetting locomotive alerts, yet the current version of the motive power and equipment compliance manual on the Federal Railroad Administration website does not contain the necessary revisions. We suggest that the regulation be reviewed and revised as necessary. Pending your revisions to the manual as advised, Safety Recommendation R 15-004 is classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.
We note that you plan to issue a Safety Advisory notifying railroads of the circumstances of this accident and of the risks posed by automated inputs that reset alerter cycles, and to encourage them to review the operation of their locomotive systems to ensure that no system resets the alerter warning timing cycle without direct engineer action. We are encouraged that you also plan to provide training to your inspectors and revise your compliance manual to emphasize to your inspectors of the importance of enforcing compliance with existing alerter requirements. Pending completion of these efforts, Safety Recommendations R-15-4 and -5 are classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE. We urge you to expedite these actions.
-From Sarah Feinberg, Acting Administrator: Thank you for your February 4, 2015, letter to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regarding the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) Safety Recommendations R-15-04 and R-15-05. FRA understands that the NTSB issued these recommendations as a result of the NTSB's ongoing investigation of the collision of two Union Pacific Railroad freight trains in Hoxie, Arkansas, on August 17, 2014. Safety Recommendation R-15-04 asks FRA "to review its existing regulations and Motive Power and Equipment Compliance Manual, and revise them as needed to prohibit automatic systems from resetting the locomotive alerter." Safety Recommendation R-15-05 asks FRA "to immediately notify railroads of the circumstances of this accident and the risks posed by automated inputs that reset alerter cycles." The enclosure to this letter contains FRA's response to Safety Recommendations R-15-04 and R-15-05 and explains the agency's position in response to the recommendations. FRA will issue a Safety Advisory to notify the railroads of the circumstances of this accident and the risks posed by automated inputs that reset alerter cycles. The Safety Advisory will also encourage the railroads to review the operation of their locomotive systems to ensure that no system resets the alerter warning timing cycle without direct engineer action. In addition, FRA will provide training to its inspectors and revise its compliance manual to emphasize to FRA inspectors the importance of enforcing compliance with existing alerter requirements. I appreciate your ongoing interest in these important safety issues. FRA understands this recommendation to be based on the freight railroad accident that occurred at Hoxie, Arkansas, on August 17, 2014. FRA shares the NTSB's safety concern that automatic systems within a freight locomotive, specifically the horn sequencer, can be wired to reset a locomotive's alerter. Per the NTSB's recommendation, FRA reviewed its existing freight regulations and Motive Power and Equipment Compliance Manual to ensure these authoritative documents prohibit automatic systems from resetting the locomotive alerter. FRA verified that the current FRA regulations in Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Section 229.140, Alerters, clearly describe this prohibition. Specifically, 49 CFR § 229.140(b)(3) requires movement of the engineer's horn activation handle to reset the alerter warning timing cycle. Existing FRA regulations require engineers to take direct action, either by operation of certain controls or actuation of the manual reset, to restart the alerter warning timing cycle. Further, under 49 CFR § 229.140(e), the alerter must be functioning and operating as intended when the locomotive is used. FRA addresses failures to comply with these regulatory requirements through inspections and enforcement activities. Nothing in FRA's Compliance Manual diminishes the direct and unambiguous wording of the regulations. While FRA found no need for a regulatory change, FRA plans to issue a Safety Advisory encouraging freight railroads to review all locomotive systems to ensure that none of them interferes with the alerter warning timing cycle. The Safety Advisory will also encourage the railroads to review the operation of their locomotive systems to ensure that no system resets the alerter warning timing cycle without direct engineer action. To reinforce compliance with the regulation, FRA will also provide supplemental training to FRA Motive Power and Equipment inspectors that will include problems found to date with automatic hom activations. The training will advise inspectors to check a variety of alerter inputs to ensure that automatic actions do not initiate during the alerter timing cycle. We will incorporate this training into the Compliance Manual when it is next revised.
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