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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-18-026
Synopsis: On March 10, 2017, about 12:50 a.m., central standard time, eastbound Union Pacific Railroad (UP) unit ethanol train, UEGKOT-09, with 3 locomotives, 98 loaded tank cars, and 2 buffer cars filled with sand derailed near milepost (MP) 56.8 at a timber railroad bridge on the Estherville Subdivision, near Graettinger, Iowa.P0F P Twenty loaded tank cars in positions 21 through 40 derailed. Fourteen of the derailed tank cars released about 322,000 gallons of undenatured ethanol, fueling a postaccident fire. The accident occurred near Jack Creek, a tributary of the Des Moines River. There were no injuries and three nearby homes were evacuated. About 400 feet of railroad track and a 152-foot railroad bridge were destroyed in the accident. UP estimated damages at $4 million.P2F P At the time of the accident, the wind was from the northwest at 17 mph gusting to 30 mph, visibility was 10 miles, and the temperature was 10°F.
Recommendation: TO THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION: Provide additional training to all your track inspectors on regulatory track safety standards compliance and provide guidance of available enforcement options to obtain compliance with minimum track safety standards when defective conditions are not being properly remediated by railroads on all routes that carry high hazardous flammable materials.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Open - Unacceptable Response
Mode: Railroad
Location: Graettinger, IA, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Accident #: DCA17MR007
Accident Reports: Preliminary Report: Railroad DCA17MR007Derailment and Hazardous Materials Release of Union Pacific Railroad Unit Ethanol Train, Graettinger, Iowa, March 10, 2017
Report #: RAR-18-02
Accident Date: 3/10/2017
Issue Date: 11/27/2018
Date Closed:
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FRA (Open - Unacceptable Response)

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
Date: 9/16/2019
Response: We note that you do not agree with our determination that the broken rail in the Graettinger accident resulted from your inadequate oversight; however, as noted in our report, our investigators determined that, although UP track inspectors identified some defective crosstie conditions, not all defective conditions were reported or remediated. In addition, our investigators and your inspectors identified more defects after the accident that had not been recorded during the UP inspection. In fact, our previous Arlington, Texas, and Eunice, Louisiana, investigations have also addressed inadequacies in the UP’s maintenance and inspection program. We recognize your efforts to ensure compliance with federal track safety standards, particularly when defective conditions are not being properly resolved by railroads. However, we disagree that your existing training is sufficient to address the inadequacies uncovered during the Graettinger investigation. We urge you to reconsider your position on this recommendation and to provide the recommended additional training. Pending such action, Safety Recommendation R 18 26 is classified OPEN--UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FRA
Date: 4/30/2019
Response: -From Ronald L. Batory, Administrator: FRA does not agree with the NTSB' s determination that the broken rail associated with the accident underlying the recommendation resulted from any inadequacy in FRA's oversight of the application of Federal Track Safety Standards. FRA provides ongoing Track Safety Standards training to its inspectors, on both interpretation and application of the requirements, through annual recurrence training, biennial discipline conferences, and ad hoc special seminars and presentations. Inspectors routinely present and discuss emerging safety issues and appropriate enforcement options with FRA regional and headquarters safety specialists. Newly hired FRA track inspectors are trained and certified by regional managers and are required to complete an additional three-week Track Fundamentals program administered by FRA's Technical Training Standards Division. This mandatory program furthers new FRA track inspectors' understanding and application of track safety requirements. FRA headquarters track specialists also travel to assigned regions to participate in annual regional track safety conferences and to address compliance issues and ensure uniform interpretation and application of track safety requirements. Moreover, FRA headquarters and regional track specialists, attorneys, and engineers meet quarterly to discuss safety issues and technology, including any necessary updates or revisions to FRA's Track Safety Standards Compliance Manual or other guidance. In addition, FRA conducts teleconferences among headquarters track specialists and regional leadership when needed to address more complex enforcement issues. In all these training, guidance, and support activities, the risk factors of hazardous materials and key train routes are consistently emphasized. Inspectors are trained to recognize noncompliant conditions and emerging safety issues and to consider the risk factors and appropriate enforcement options. FRA will continue its comprehensive efforts to ensure compliance with the Track Safety Standards, particularly when defective conditions are not being properly resolved by railroads. Because FRA already provides extensive training on standards and guidance on enforcement options, FRA respectfully requests the NTSB classify Safety Recommendation R-18-26 as "Closed-Reconsidered." FRA is already fully meeting the intent of this recommendation, so it will take no further action. I appreciate your interest in these important safety issues. If FRA can provide further information or assistance, please contact Mr. Karl Alexy, Deputy Associate Administrator for Railroad Safety.

From: NTSB
Date: 11/27/2018
Response: On October 30, 2018, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) adopted its accident report, Derailment and Hazardous Materials Release of Union Pacific Railroad Unit Ethanol Train, Graettinger, Iowa, March 10, 2017, RAR-18/02. The details of this accident report and the resulting safety recommendations may be found in the accident report, which can also be accessed at Among the safety recommendations is one issued to the Federal Railroad Administration, which can be found on page 61 of the report. The NTSB is vitally interested in this recommendation because it is designed to prevent accidents and save lives. We would appreciate a response within 90 days, detailing the actions you have taken or intend to take to implement this recommendation. When replying, please refer to the safety recommendation by number. We encourage you to submit your response to If it exceeds 10 megabytes, including attachments, please e-mail us at the same address for instructions. Please do not submit both an electronic copy and a hard copy of the same response.