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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-96-077
Details
Synopsis: ABOUT 4:10 A.M. ON 2/1/96, ATCHISON, TOPEKA AND SANTA FE RAILWAY COMPANY (ATSF) FREIGHT TRAIN H-BALT1-31, EN ROUTE FROM BARSTOW, CALIFORNIA, TO LOS ANGELES, WAS TRAVELING WESTBOUND ON THE ATSF SOUTH MAIN TRACK WHEN IT DERAILED AT MILEPOST 60.4 NEAR CAJON JUNCTION, CALIFORNIA. AFTER THE DERAILMENT AND THE SUBSEQUENT RAIL CAR PILEUP, WHICH INVOLVED FIVE CARS CONTAINING HAZARDOUS MATERIALS, A FIRE IGNITED THAT ENGULFED THE TRAIN AND THE SURROUNDING AREA. THE CONDUCTOR AND THE BRAKEMAN SUSTAINED FATAL INJURIES; THE ENGINEER SUFFERED SERIOUS INJURIES.
Recommendation: THE NTSB RECOMMENDS THAT THE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN RAILROADS: INVESTIGATE AND EVALUATE MEANS TO IMPROVE THE ABILITY OF EMERGENCY RESPONSE PERSONNEL TO IDENTIFY TANK CARS INVOLVED IN ACCIDENTS.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Mode: Railroad
Location: Cajon, CA, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA96MR002
Accident Reports: Derailment of Freight Train H-BALTI-31 Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company
Report #: RAR-96-05
Accident Date: 2/1/1996
Issue Date: 3/5/1997
Date Closed: 8/8/2005
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: Association of American Railroads (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Keyword(s): Hazmat

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: Association of American Railroads
Date: 8/8/2005
Response: The Safety Board is aware that the tank car specialist course and the advanced tank car specialist course taught at the AAR's Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI), have for some time included information on tank car identification. The Safety Board notes the AAR had previously discussed the use of bar codes, automatic equipment identification (AEI) tags, placards, and other painted markings as a means to identify tank cars. According to the AAR and the Federal Railroad Administration, 100 percent of the railroad cars in the U.S. and Canada, more than 1.3 million railroad cars, have been equipped since 1995 with AEI tags installed on both sides of all freight cars and locomotives. The AEI readers, installed along the track at yards, terminals, and junctions, interrogate the tags, which respond with the unique initials and numbers identifying each car. The AAR has pointed out that in the Cajon Junction accident, the train, originally 3,218 feet long, was compressed into a 400- to 500-foot-long pileup of cars in the derailment. As a result, the AEI tags, had they not been destroyed in the 4-day fire, still would not have been able to provide specific information about the location of the tank cars. The Safety Board notes that the Railroad Supply Institute (RSI) and the AAR Tank Car Safety Research and Test Project have an ongoing venture called the Tank Car Operating Environment (TCOE) Project. The TCOE Project is evaluating technology that would be able to record high-impact events on tank cars using global positioning system (GPS) devices and indicate the location of those events. The GPS devices are interactive and are programmed to periodically transmit significant events to the organization that owns the device. These devices, however, were never intended to aid emergency response personnel in identifying rail cars in collisions or derailments. If a tank car equipped with such a GPS device were involved in a pileup, the device could only provide latitude and longitude, not whether the tank car were on top or beneath another tank car. Also, it is not known whether the GPS devices would survive the impact of a catastrophic event or any ensuing fire. For these reasons, the AAR has indicated that it is not conducting any further research on the use of GPS devices to aid emergency response personnel in identifying tank cars involved in collisions or derailments. The AAR has stated that it has not used in the past, and does not plan to use in the future, GPS as a method to track railroad freight cars because of cost and high maintenance, although the AAR is aware that some private car owners use GPS for tracking car availability and for other purposes. Although the Safety Board had hoped that GPS or other systems would have proven more helpful for emergency response personnel to identify tank cars, the Board believes that the intent of Safety Recommendation R-96-77 has been met. Accordingly, Safety Recommendation R-96-77 is classified "Closed--Acceptable Action."

From: Association of American Railroads
To: NTSB
Date: 5/5/2005
Response: email: The Railroad Supply Institute (RSI)-AAR Tank Car Safety Research and Test Project (the Project) has an ongoing project called the Tank Car Operating Environment (TCOE) Project. The TCOE Project is evaluating technology that would be able to record high impact events and tie those events to a location. The devices are interactive, and they are programmed to periodically transmit significant events to the organization that owns the device. The device can also be queried on demand. While the capacity to query the cars on demand exists, it results in draining the batteries much more quickly than they are designed. The batteries that come with the devices today have a life of two to three years. These devices were never intended to aid emergency response personnel in identifying railcars in incidents, collisions, and derailments. It isn't clear that all the devices would survive the impact of the catastrophic event and any resulting fire. Finally, if a railcar equipped with such a device were involved in a pile up, the device could only provide latitude and longitude, and not whether the railcar was on top or beneath another railcar. Hence, while it might be possible to determine that a railcar was in a pile up at a catastrophe, it would still not be possible to identify the specific railcar in the pileup. Association of American Railroads (AAR) has no research with the goal of identifying tank cars involved in incidents, collisions, and derailments; however, identifying tank cars is part of the training program at the Transportation Technology Center Incorporated's (TTCI's) Emergency Response Training Center (ERTC). This together with the currently methodology of operations ensures optimum handling and safe delivery of tank cars under all conditions, including these infrequent events. Submission of this information answers your supplemental inquiries and our exchanges; and should enable you and NTSB to close subject recommendation, "Closed--Acceptable Response." We will look forward to hearing appropriately from you at your earliest convenience.

From: Association of American Railroads
To: NTSB
Date: 2/17/2005
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 2/22/2005 1:36:17 PM MC# 2050075 There is an ongoing study to determine the forces tank cars experience in the rail operating environment called the Tank Car Operating Environment Project. The primary objective of that project is to obtain data, which can be used as input to the design of tank cars in the future. The prototype data-collection tank car is out over the road in the final stage of its shakedown test. Once the shakedown is successful, we will develop the plan for the data collection phase itself, which we expect will take place in 2005 using multiple tank cars in revenue service. That latter phase will also determine the usefulness of placing data collection cars into the fleet in perpetuity (the final phase of the project), with some mechanism for communicating high-load events to AAR and/or the car owner. The final report on the second phase (cars in revenue service) is estimated to be completed approximately a year from now. AAR will keep NTSB informed as the project progresses. We expect any device developed as an in service monitoring device, could be used to identify the car, if the device survived an accident, as well as locate the car on demand. In consultation with the NTSB Investigator in charge of this investigation, we were informed that our current actions meet and exceed the initial intent of the recommendation.

From: NTSB
To: Association of American Railroads
Date: 11/24/2004
Response: The Safety Board is aware that the tank car specialist course and the advanced tank car specialist course that are taught at the AAR's Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI), have for some time included information on tank car identification. The Board also acknowledges the AAR's belief that it is best for emergency response personnel to await the arrival of technical experts from the railroad, hazardous materials shippers, and wreckage-clearing specialists, who will assess the situation and make decisions regarding the condition of tank cars or, in the event of a fire, whether to cool a car, put out the fire, or let the fire burn out. In the Board's recommendation letter of March 5, 1997, we noted that the AAR was "evaluating the use of global satellite tracking systems to collect impact data on tank cars while in transport." The Board further noted that "enhancement of such technologies may feasibly include the identification of tank cars." Consequently, the Board would appreciate being informed of the results of that evaluation before determining the final disposition of this recommendation. In the meantime, Safety Recommendation R-96-77 will remain classified "Open--Acceptable Response."

From: NTSB
To: Association of American Railroads
Date: 2/19/2004
Response: On 2/19/2004 Board staff met with representatives from the AAR to discuss this recommendation. In this meeting, the AAR indicated that it believes it has complied with this recommendation through its emergency response training at the Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI) in Pueblo, CO. The AAR stated that the tank car specialist training course manual includes training on rail tank car markings, damage assessment, and response orientation. The AAR also indicated that it works in concert with the Operation Respond Institute that is a not-for-profit organization that develops software tools and training for emergency responders.

From: NTSB
To: Association of American Railroads
Date: 12/6/2000
Response: The Safety Board notes that the AAR requests that these recommendations remain in an “open” posture as the association’s committees consider action. As these recommendations were issued between 2 and 9 years ago, the Safety Board would appreciate receiving a substantive response to all of them within 60 days as to contemplated actions and a schedule to complete such actions. Pending receipt of the requested information within 60 days, the above-listed Safety Recommendations are classified "Open--Acceptable Response." In your reply, please refer to the Safety Recommendations by number.

From: Association of American Railroads
To: NTSB
Date: 8/21/2000
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 08/22/2000 3:27:22 PM MC# 2001124 The rail industry, through its appropriate committees, is carefully considering the above-referenced recommendation. When that review is completed, I will notify you of the resolution.

From: NTSB
To: Association of American Railroads
Date: 6/24/1998
Response: THE BOARD NOTES THAT THE AAR IS MAKING THE FIELD GUIDE TO TANK CAR IDENTIFICATION AVAILABLE TO EMERGENCY RESPONDERS & THAT IT IS TEACHING TANK CAR IDENTIFICATION SEVERAL TIMES A YEAR AS PART OF ITS TANK CAR SPECIALIST COURSE AT THE AAR'S TRANSPORTATION TECHNOLOGY CENTER, INC. THE BOARD BELIEVES THAT THE FIELD GUIDE IS A GOOD RESOURCE FOR EMERGENCY RESPONDERS, & IS INTERESTED IN ANY EFFORTS BY THE AAR TO INCREASE ITS DISTRIBUTION. WE WERE PLEASED TO LEARN THAT THE AAR IS WORKING WITH THE CHEMICAL MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION TO DETERMINE IF TANK CAR IDENTIFICATION CAN BE INTEGRATED INTO THE TRANSPORTATION COMMUNITY AWARENESS & EMERGENCY RESPONSE PROGRAM. PENDING RECEIPT OF FURTHER INFO ABOUT THE DEVELOPMENT OF THIS EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM & WIDER DISTRIBUTION OF THE FIELD GUIDE, R-96-77 IS CLASSIFIED "OPEN--ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE."

From: Association of American Railroads
To: NTSB
Date: 2/3/1998
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 2/10/98 2:58:04 PM MC# 980156

From: Association of American Railroads
To: NTSB
Date: 1/28/1998
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 2/2/98 4:00:43 PM MC# 980120