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THE NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD HAS LONG BEEN CONCERNED ABOUT THE ROLE OF ALCOHOL AND DRUGS IN RAILROAD ACCIDENTS. RECENT RAILROAD ACCIDENTS INVOLVING ALCOHOL/DRUG ABUSE HAVE HEIGHTENED ITS CONCERN. IN 18 CASES INVESTIGATED OR UNDER INVESTIGATION BY THE SAFETY BOARD IN WHICH ALCOHOL AND DRUG USE WAS INVOLVED, 25 RAILROAD EMPLOYEES WERE KILLED, 13 EMPLOYEES WERE INJURED, AND PROPERTY DAMAGE WAS REPORTEDLY IN EXCESS OF $25 MILLION. OF PARAMOUNT CONCERN TO THE SAFETY BOARD IS THE PROTECTION OF THE PUBLIC AND RAILROAD EMPLOYEES WHO ARE PLACED IN LIFE-THREATENING SITUATIONS BY RAILROAD EMPLOYEES WHO MAY BE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL AND/OR DRUGS.
THE NTSB RECOMMENDS THAT THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION: WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF THE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN RAILROADS AND THE RAILWAY LABOR EXECUTIVES ASSOCIATION, DEVELOP AND PROMULGATE A REQUIREMENT THAT ALCOHOL/DRUG ABUSE INVOLVEMENT ACCIDENTS/INCIDENTS BE FULLY REPORTED TO THE FRA.
Original recommendation transmittal letter:
Closed - Acceptable Action
Livingston, LA, United States
Derailment of Illinois Central Gulf Railroad Freight Train Extra 9629 East (GS-2-28) and Release of Hazardous Materials
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status:
FRA (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Safety Recommendation History
The Safety Board appreciates the thoughtful comments by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regarding the Board's assistance during the rulemaking process on this important safety project. The Board in turn commends the FRA for its efforts to finalize federal regulations on the control of alcohol and drug use in railroad operations. The Board has reviewed the final regulations in detail, and while we continue to believe that certain sections of the regulations could have been strengthened, as discussed in our August 15, 1984, comments to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, we do agree that the final rules will go a long way in mitigating a problem that for years has plagued the railroad industry. Since the thrust of the Board's recommendations has been met, Safety Recommendations R-83-30 through -32 have been placed in a "Closed-Acceptable Action" status.
FRA'S REGULATIONS CONTAIN THE SIX ELEMENTS INCLUDED IN THE NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING (NPRM), WHICH WERE A FEDERAL PROHIBITION, POSTACCIDENT TESTING, IMPROVED REPORTING, PREEMPLOYMENT DRUG SCREENS, REASONABLE CAUSE TESTING AUTHORITY, AND TROUBLED EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROVISIONS. I SINCERELY APPRECIATE THE ASSISTANCE PROVIDED BY YOURSELF, THE OTHER NTSB MEMBERS, AND NTSB STAFF DURING THE RULEMAKING PROCESS. FRA HAS ADOPTED, WITH MINOR ADJUSTMENTS, ALL THREE OF THE NTSB RECOMMENDATIONS ON ALCOHOL AND DRUG CONTROL. WE INCLUDED POSSESSION, REPORTING, AND ON DUTY PROHIBITIONS, AND ESTABLISHED A PER SE IMPAIRMENT STANDARD. WE DID NOT INCLUDE A SPECIFIC BEFORE DUTY ABSTINENCE PERIOD FOR SEVERAL REASONS. FRA'S REGULATION PROHIBITS ANY EMPLOYEE FROM REPORTING FOR DUTY WHILE IMPAIRED OR UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL OR ANY CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE. THIS IS, IN EFFECT, WHATEVER ABSTINENCE PERIOD IS REQUIRED. FRA FOUND A SPECIFIC PERIOD WAS NOT PRACTICAL AND UNENFORCEABLE. THE CRITICAL PERIOD IS WHEN THE PERSON COMES ON THE JOB. THE REASONABLE CAUSE TESTING AUTHORITY GIVES THE RAILROADS STRONG TOOLS, BREATH AND URINE TESTING, TO SEE THAT EMPLOYEES DO NOT REPORT IMPAIRED. FRA HAS ALSO ADOPTED POSTACCIDENT TESTING REQUIREMENTS COVERING MAJOR ACCIDENTS. THESE PROVISIONS ARE EXPECTED TO COVER ABOUT 200 INSTANCES A YEAR AND INVOLVE THE BLOOD AND URINE TESTING OF OVER A THOUSAND EMPLOYEES. FRA THOROUGHLY CONSIDERED THE NTSB RECOMMENDATION AND TESTIMONY ON THIS SUBJECT. OUR FIRST CUT IDENTIFIED UP TO 5,000 TEST SITUATIONS A YEAR. FRA FOUND THIS NUMBER EXCESSIVE AND REFOCUSED THE UNIVERSE ON ABOUT 600 IN THE NPRM. AFTER HEARING THE TESTIMONY, WE DECIDED TO ELIMINATE AS MANY OF THE MINOR EQUIPMENT OR TRACK CAUSED ACCIDENTS AS POSSIBLE. GRADE CROSSING ACCIDENTS WERE ALSO DROPPED BECAUSE THERE WAS LITTLE EVIDENCE TO LINK IMPAIRED TRAIN SERVICE PERSONNEL WITH THEM. AS YOU KNOW, MOST OF THESE ACCIDENTS ARE CAUSED BY MOTORISTS AND RAILROAD PERSONNEL CAN DO LITTLE, IF ANYTHING TO AVOID A CROSSING ACCIDENT. FRA HAS FOCUSED THE POSTACCIDENT TESTING REQUIREMENTS ON MAJOR TRAIN ACCIDENTS INVOLVING A FATALITY, RELEASE OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS WITH AN INJURY OR EVACUATION OR DAMAGE IN EXCESS OF $500,000. OTHER ACCIDENTS INCLUDED INVOLVE IMPACTS OR FATAL INCIDENTS THAT ARE LIKELY TO INVOLVE SOME HUMAN ELEMENT IN THE CAUSE. THESE PROVISIONS WILL PERMIT US TO LEARN THE ROLE OF ALCOHOL AND DRUGS IN MAJOR ACCIDENTS AND PROVIDE EVIDENCE ON THE EXTENT OF USAGE IN THE INDUSTRY. FRA HAS REQUIRED THE RAILROADS TO THOROUGHLY INVESTIGATE THE ROLE OF ALCOHOL AND DRUGS IN THEIR ACCIDENT INVESTIGATIONS. THIS CAN EASILY BE ACCOMPLISHED THROUGH THE USE OF THE NEW BREATH AND URINE TESTING AUTHORITY. FRA'S FIELD INSPECTORS WILL MONITOR THE CARRIERS' ACTIONS TO SEE THAT THOROUGH INVESTIGATIONS ARE PERFORMED. RAILROADS ARE REQUIRED TO REPORT THEIR FINDINGS TO FRA. IN ADDITION TO THE THREE ITEMS RECOMMENDED BY NTSB, THE FRA FOUND THAT THREE OTHERS WERE NECESSARY. FIRST, WE WANTED THE RAILROADS TO BEGIN SCREENING NEW EMPLOYEES. PROVISIONS WERE INCLUDED TO REQUIRE THAT APPLICANTS FOR COVERED SERVICE POSITIONS HAVE THEIR URINE SCREENED FOR THE PRESENCE OF DRUGS. SECOND, FRA INCLUDED PROVISIONS FOR EMPLOYEES TO SELF REFER FOR TREATMENT OF ALCOHOL OR DRUG PROBLEMS. IF A PERSON DID NOT SELF REFER, HE COULD BE REFERRED BY ONE OF HIS PEERS WITHOUT THE THREAT OF LOSING HIS JOB. FINALLY, FRA INCLUDED REASONABLE CAUSE TESTING AUTHORITY. THIS PROVISION IS NECESSARY IF THE RAILROADS ARE TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN ENFORCING THE PROHIBITION. BREATH OR URINE TESTING CAN BE REQUIRED BASED ON REASONABLE SUSPICION, AFTER REPORTABLE ACCIDENTS/INCIDENTS AND AFTER MAJOR RULE VIOLATIONS. THE SIX ELEMENTS DEVELOPED BY FRA CONTAIN ALL THE ITEMS REQUIRED FOR AN EFFECTIVE CONTROL PROBLEM. THEY ESTABLISH POLICY, PROVIDE FOR EXCLUDING POTENTIAL PROGRAM EMPLOYEES FROM THE WORK FORCE, PROVIDE ASSISTANCE TO CURRENT EMPLOYEES WITH AN ALCOHOL/DRUG PROBLEM, REQUIRE POSTACCIDENT TESTING AND IMPROVED REPORTING, AND ESTABLISH A CLEAR DETERRENT IN THE FORM OF TESTING AUTHORITY. THIS IS A VERY COMPREHENSIVE PROGRAM THAT BREAKS A LOT OF NEW GROUND FOR THE RAILROAD INDUSTRY AND THE GOVERNMENT. IT WILL PROVIDE THE PROTECTION NEEDED FOR THE PUBLIC AND RAILROAD EMPLOYEES. I KNOW YOU WILL REVIEW THE REGULATIONS CAREFULLY. I HOPE YOU AGREE WITH ME ON THE SOUNDNESS OF THIS PROGRAM AND WILL HAVE RECOMMENDATIONS R-83-30 THROUGH -32 CLOSED.
From the accident report of the rear end collision of Seaboard System Railroad freight trains extra 8051 North and Extra 1751 North in Sullivan, Indiana on September 14, 1983. The Board adopted this report on 5/5/1984. As a further result of its investigation of this accident, the National Transportation Safety Board reiterates the following recommendations made to the Federal Railroad Administration on March 7, 1983: (R-83-31 and R-83-32).
The Safety Board believes Federal Railroad's commitment to develop an effective and comprehensive national program among railroads, labor organizations, outside agencies, and the Federal government to combat alcohol and/or drug abuse by railroad operating employees is extremely important. The Board also notes that the FRA has issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the review of a broadbased set of solutions including review of the
recommendations, and we agree that a close working relationship between the directly affected parties is necessary. We strongly urge, however, that accelerated action be taken on this rulemaking proposal to expedite needed protection for the
employees, and emergency response personnel who must deal with the effects of accidents involving railroad employees whose drinking and drug habits place them and others at risk. The results of railroad accidents can be staggering in terms of economic loss to the railroads, communities, and States. Further, the Board believes that the FRA has a definite responsibility to convey to the public the sense that the federal government does not and will not condone alcohol and/or drug abuse and will take strong affirmative actions to remove the risk posed by those who are involved in such abuse while operating transportation vehicles. Safety Recommendations R-83-30 through -32 will be held as "Open-Acceptable Action" pending the completion of the FRA's intended actions to address these serious safety concerns. The Board suggests that accelerated action be taken. We believe that within 6 months the FRA should be able to develop a directed national program with sufficient regulatory constraints to curb alcohol and/or drug abuse by railroad operating employees.
FRA LETTER: THE FRA IS FULLY COMMITTED TO COMBAT THE MISUSE OF ALCOHOL AND DRUGS BY RAILROAD OPERATING EMPLOYEES. OUR CURRENT EFFORTS ARE DIRECTED AT DEVELOPING AN EFFECTIVE AND COMPREHENSIVE NATIONAL PROGRAM IN A CLOSE WORKING RELATIONSHIP WITH THE RAILROADS, EMPLOYEE ORGANIZATIONS, NTSB AND OTHER AGENCIES, BOTH PUBLIC AND PRIVATE, WHICH HAVE EXPERTISE IN THE SUBJECT. IT IS OUR INTENTION TO ISSUE SHORTLY AND ADVANCE NOTICE PROPOSED RULEMAKING WHICH WILL CREATE A FORUM FOR THE REVIEW OF THE BROADBASED SET OF SOLUTIONS INCLUDING THE THREE SPECIFIC RECOMMENDATIONS OF NTSB. THIS NOTICE WILL REVIEW THE EVENTS WHICH HAVE OCCURRED PERTAINING TO ALCOHOL AND DRUG ABUSE, CONTAIN OPTIONS FOR DEALING WITH THE MATTER, AND REQUEST INPUT FROM THE INTERESTED PARTIES. THE NTSB WILL BE REQUESTED TO PROVIDE PERTINENT INFORMATION, AND SEVERAL PUBLIC HEARINGS WILL BE CONDUCTED THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY. WE BELIEVE THIS PROCESS WILL LEAD TO DEVELOPMENT OF THE MOST EFFECTIVE APPROACH TO DEALING WITH THE USE OF ALCOHOL AND DRUGS BY RAILROAD OPERATING EMPLOYEES.
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