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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: Immediately notify railroads of the circumstances of this accident and the risks posed by automated inputs that reset alerter cycles. Urge railroads to assess all controlling locomotive alerter systems to (1) identify and document any system inputs that reset the alerter cycle without manual intervention by crewmembers and (2) determine ways to eliminate such resets. (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
We note that you published Safety Advisory 2015–06 at 80 Federal Register, 75162 (December 1, 2015), which notifies railroads of the circumstances of the Hoxie accident and of the risks posed by automated inputs that reset alerter cycles. Further, the advisory encourages railroads to review their locomotive system operation to ensure that no system resets the alerter warning timing cycle without direct engineer action. Safety Advisory 2015–06 adequately addresses Safety Recommendation R-15-005, which is classified CLOSED—ACCEPTABLE ACTION.
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 concurs with the NTSB's analysis and recommendation for notification to the freight railroads. FRA tested a Union Pacific Railroad locomotive of the same series that was involved in the Hoxie, Arkansas, accident and confirmed the horn sequencer on that locomotive operated as the NTSB described to reset the alerter warning timing cycle. This series of 40 locomotives, which were built over 20 years ago, were factory-equipped with a stand-alone horn sequencer, wired to reset the alerter with every sounding of the horn, including the sounding of the horn by the horn sequencer. The manner of the alerter's interaction with the horn sounding was not specifically regulated at the time the locomotives were manufactured. Locomotives of this age will not fall under the current regulation until January 1, 2017. To determine how many existing locomotive alerters interact with the horn sequencer in this manner, FRA contacted both major domestic locomotive manufacturers and discovered that, for many years, both manufacturers have been equipping locomotives with integrated horn sequencer systems that reset the alerter only when activated or deactivated by the engineer, not each time the horn sounds. Because many older locomotives, including locomotives from smaller manufacturers and remanufacturers are still in service, FRA is preparing a Safety Advisory to notify the railroads of the circumstances of this accident and the risks posed by automated inputs that reset alerter cycles and urge the railroads to assess all controlling locomotive alerter systems. 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.
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