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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-97-036
Details
Synopsis: About 5:38 p.m. on 2/16/96, eastbound Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) train 286 collided with westbound National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) train 29, the Capitol Limited, at milepost 8.55 on CSX main track near Silver Spring, Maryland. The MARC train was operating in the push mode in revenue service between Brunswic k, Maryland, and Washington, DC; it consisted of a locomotive and three commuter cars. The Amtrak train, operating in revenue service between Washington DC., and Chicago, Illinois, consisted of 2 locomotives and 15 cars.
Recommendation: TO THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: Review the testing protocols within the various modal administrations regarding the flammability and the smoke emissions characteristics of interior material and coordinate the development and implementation of standards for material performance and testing with the FRA and the FTA.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Mode: Railroad
Location: Silver Spring, MD, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA96MR004
Accident Reports: Collision and Derailment of Maryland Rail Commuter MARC Train 286 and National Railroad Passenger Corporation AMTRAK Train 29
Report #: RAR-97-02
Accident Date: 2/16/1996
Issue Date: 8/28/1997
Date Closed: 9/25/2018
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: DOT (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: DOT
Date: 9/25/2018
Response: We note that, as part of the FRA’s passenger equipment safety effort and based on analysis by two contractors, you have updated your fire safety regulations. Further, the FRA and FTA have collaborated on rail transit vehicle safety, and the FTA has shared fire safety recommendations for rail transit materials from the National Association of State Fire Marshals with stakeholders and the transit industry. The FTA’s and the FRA’s actions satisfy the intent of Safety Recommendation R 97-36, which is classified CLOSED--ACCEPTABLE ACTION.

From: DOT
To: NTSB
Date: 2/20/2018
Response: -From K. Jane Williams, Deputy Administrator, Federal Transit Administration and Juan D. Reyes III, Acting Deputy Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration: This letter further updates the status of the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) Safety Recommendation R-97-036, which recommended that the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) "review the testing protocols within the various modal administrations regarding the flammability and the smoke emissions characteristics of interior materials and coordinate the development and implementation of standards for material performance and testing with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)." As noted in then-Secretary Mineta's June 3, 2003, letter, the FRA's Passenger Equipment Safety Standards rulemaking effort resulted in FRA issuing fire safety regulations in May 1999, and amending them in June 2002. Since then, FTA and FRA have made additional progress. As mentioned in DOT' s 2003 response to this recommendation, in 1984 FTA, formerly the Urban Mass Transit Administration (UMTA), issued recommendations for testing flammability and smoke emission characteristics of materials used in the construction of rapid rail transit and light rail transit vehicles. The UMTA recommended Fire Safety Practices for Rail Transit Materials Selection, which were based on proposed guidelines for flammability and smoke emission specifications developed by the Transportation Systems Center (now the Volpe Center (Volpe) or the National Transportation Systems Center). The FTA provided funding to Volpe, which worked jointly with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to review FTA' s recommended fire safety practices for rail transit, bus and van, and advise of any necessary revisions. The FRA also provided funding to Volpe to investigate the use of alternative testing methods and the use of computer hazard analysis models for rail vehicle fire safety. The NIST conducted studies and produced three reports through this work. The Phase I report on Material Evaluation (Cone Calorimeter) was published in 1999. Phase II on Application of Fire Hazard Analysis Techniques was published in 2002. Phase III on Evaluation of Fire Hazard Analysis Using Full Scale Passenger Rail Car Tests was published in 2004. Information and results from these studies were used to inform and support the development of FRA's fire safety regulations, including introduction of the Cone Calorimeter in a limited manner to use heat release rate as an alternative to demonstrate fire safety for certain materials. These studies also serve to support additional consideration of alternative fire testing methods, and approaches to evaluate passenger train fire safety. Consistent with the studies' overall broader approach to evaluating fire safety, and as part of FRA's proposed standards for Tier III passenger equipment, FRA has also proposed to amend its fire safety regulations to clarify the application of its floor fire test method to modem high-speed trainsets that employ a material cowling fully enclosing the underframe of the vehicle. See 81 Fed. Reg. 88006, 88039, 88059 (December 6, 2016). These proposed Tier III safety standards are the product of FRA's Railroad Safety Advisory Committee's consensus recommendations, which otherwise included applying FRA's existing fire safety regulations to this new tier of passenger train operations. Additionally, in 2008 the National Association of State Fire Marshals prepared a report for FTA on Recommended Fire Safety Practices for Rail Transit Materials Selection. This report is published on FTA's public website at: https://www.transit.dot.gov/oversight-policyareas/recommended-fire-safety-practices-rail-transit-materials-section. In addition to posting the report on FTA's public website, FTA also shared the report with the transit industry and other transit safety stakeholders, such as the American Public Transportation Association. The report subsequently was posted publicly by the Transportation Research Board (https://trid.trb.org/view.aspx?id=885693) and the Department of Homeland Security (https://www.hsdl.org/?abstract&did=772402). Moreover, FRA and FTA both promote System Safety and Safety Management System approaches within our respective industries. A large component of these approaches is hazard identification and mitigation. Fire and smoke incidents on passenger rail and transit are very serious hazards. Through our work with the industries and our noted use of FRA Passenger Equipment Safety Standards, and FTA Recommended Fire Safety Practices for Rail Transit Materials Selection, we are confident that the industry is focused on this hazard. We believe our collective actions promoting fire safety address the NTSB's recommendation, and respectfully request that the NTSB consider this recommendation closed. Please let Dr. Thomas Littleton, FTA' s Associate Administrator for the Office of Transit Safety and Oversight and Robert Lauby, FRA's Associate Administrator for the Office of Railroad Safety and Chief Safety Officer, know if you have any questions.

From: DOT
To: NTSB
Date: 2/20/2018
Response: -From K. Jane Williams, Deputy Administrator, Federal Transit Administration and Juan D. Reyes III, Acting Deputy Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration: This letter further updates the status of the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) Safety Recommendation R-97-036, which recommended that the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) "review the testing protocols within the various modal administrations regarding the flammability and the smoke emissions characteristics of interior materials and coordinate the development and implementation of standards for material performance and testing with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)." As noted in then-Secretary Mineta's June 3, 2003, letter, the FRA's Passenger Equipment Safety Standards rulemaking effort resulted in FRA issuing fire safety regulations in May 1999, and amending them in June 2002. Since then, FTA and FRA have made additional progress. As mentioned in DOT's 2003 response to this recommendation, in 1984 FTA, formerly the Urban Mass Transit Administration (UMT A), issued recommendations for testing flammability and smoke emission characteristics of materials used in the construction of rapid rail transit and light rail transit vehicles. The UMTA recommended Fire Safety Practices for Rail Transit Materials Selection, which were based on proposed guidelines for flammability and smoke emission specifications developed by the Transportation Systems Center (now the Volpe Center (Volpe) or the National Transportation Systems Center). The FTA provided funding to Volpe, which worked jointly with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to review FTA's recommended fire safety practices for rail transit, bus and van, and advise of any necessary revisions. The FRA also provided funding to Volpe to investigate the use of alternative testing methods and the use of computer hazard analysis models for rail vehicle fire safety. The NIST conducted studies and produced three reports through this work. The Phase I report on Material Evaluation (Cone Calorimeter) was published in 1999. Phase II on Application of Fire Hazard Analysis Techniques was published in 2002. Phase III on Evaluation of Fire Hazard Analysis Using Full Scale Passenger Rail Car Tests was published in 2004. Information and results from these studies were used to inform and support the development of FRA's fire safety regulations, including introduction of the Cone Calorimeter in a limited manner to use heat release rate as an alterative to demonstrate fire safety for certain materials. These studies also serve to support additional consideration of alternative fire testing methods, and approaches to evaluate passenger train fire safety. Consistent with the studies' overall broader approach to evaluating fire safety, and as part of FRA' s proposed standards for Tier III passenger equipment, FRA has also proposed to amend its fire safety regulations to clarify the application of its floor fire test method to modem high-speed trainsets that employ a material cowling fully enclosing the underframe of the vehicle. See 81 Fed. Reg. 88006, 88039, 88059 (December 6, 2016). These proposed Tier III safety standards are the product ofFRA's Railroad Safety Advisory Committee's consensus recommendations, which otherwise included applying FRA's existing fire safety regulations to this new tier of passenger train operations. Additionally, in 2008 the National Association of State Fire Marshals prepared a report for FTA on Recommended Fire Safety Practices for Rail Transit Materials Selection. This report is published on FTA' s public website at: https://www.transit.dot.gov/oversight-policyareas/recommended-fire-safety-practices-rail-transit-materials-section. In addition to posting the report on FTA's public website, FTA also shared the report with the transit industry and other transit safety stakeholders, such as the American Public Transportation Association. The report subsequently was posted publicly by the Transportation Research Board (https://trid.trb.org/view.aspx?id=885693) and the Department of Homeland Security (https ://www.hsdl.org/?abstract&did=772402 ). Moreover, FRA and FTA both promote System Safety and Safety Management System approaches within our respective industries. A large component of these approaches is hazard identification and mitigation. Fire and smoke incidents on passenger rail and transit are very serious hazards. Through our work with the industries and our noted use of FRA Passenger Equipment Safety Standards, and FT A Recommended Fire Safety Practices for Rail Transit Materials Selection, we are confident that the industry is focused on this hazard. We believe our collective actions promoting fire safety address the NTSB's recommendation, and respectfully request that the NTSB consider this recommendation closed. Please let Dr. Thomas Littleton, FTA's Associate Administrator for the Office of Transit Safety and Oversight and Robert Lauby, FRA's Associate Administrator for the Office of Railroad Safety and Chief Safety Officer, know if you have any questions.

From: NTSB
To: DOT
Date: 9/30/2013
Response: This letter concerns 22 open safety recommendations that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued to the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) between 1997 and 2013. Enclosure 1 is a list of these recommendations; Enclosure 2 is a copy of the correspondence history regarding them. The NTSB is currently reviewing a July 24, 2013, update from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration regarding Safety Recommendations I-02-1 and -2, which will be addressed in separate correspondence. We recently corresponded with the Federal Aviation Administration regarding Safety Recommendation A-06-43; Enclosure 3 provides a more detailed history of correspondence regarding this recommendation. The NTSB is interested in knowing whether and how our recommendations are implemented, both to ensure that the traveling public is provided the highest level of safety and to identify creative solutions that might be shared with others. We are concerned because we have not received updates regarding action either taken or planned to address the remaining 19 open recommendations for some time—in some cases, over 10 years. We would like to point out that, when we issue a safety recommendation directly to the USDOT rather than to an individual modal agency, we do so because the scope of the recommendation falls outside the authority of the modal agency, or for some other specific reason. Failure to address these important safety issues places the public at risk.

From: NTSB
To: DOT
Date: 8/14/2003
Response: The Safety Board appreciates the DOT's update on this recommendation. As you have pointed out, as part of the Federal Railroad Administration's passenger equipment safety rulemaking effort, fire safety regulations were revised in June 2002. We note that the FTA has provided funding to the Volpe Center to review both its rail transit and bus and van transit recommended fire safety practices and advise of appropriate revisions. In that regard, the FTA intends to publish in the Federal Register later this year the recommended practices for rail transit vehicle materials selection. The Board is encouraged by these activities, and we look forward to reviewing the FTA's revised recommended practices. In the meantime, Safety Recommendation R-97-36 remains classified OPEN -- ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: DOT
To: NTSB
Date: 6/3/2003
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 6/9/2003 4:30:47 PM MC# 2030276 - From Norman Y. Mineta, Secretary: The FRA funded the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Building and Fire Research Laboratory to conduct a study intended to provide an alternative methodology to evaluate passenger train fire safety performance. Directed by the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, the study objective is to demonstrate fully the practicality and effectiveness of test methods using heat release rate and fire hazard analysis techniques when applied to passenger rail car fire safety. Phase II of the study has been completed. The Phase 11 report describes the results of component assembly tests and tire hazard analysts completed for three passenger rail car configurations. As part of FRA's passenger equipment safety rulemaking effort, fire safety regulations were issued on May 12, 1999, and revised on June 25, 2002. Extensive Volpe Center and FRA staff time and effort have been required to ensure that the fire safety research program results were incorporated into the regulations in an appropriate manner. The Phase III interim report of the ongoing fire safety research program, which describes full-scale passenger rail car tire tests, will be published later this year. FTA has also provided funding to the Volpe Center to review both its rail transit and bus and van transit recommended fire safety practices and advise FTA of appropriate revisions to FTA's Recommended Fire Safety Practices for Rail Transit Materials Selection (August 14, 1984, Federal Register/Vol. 49, No. 158). Additional material tests and the conduct of tire hazard analyses for rail transit vehicles are scheduled for completion this summer. Later this year, FTA intends to publish in the Federal Register revised recommended practices for rail transit vehicle materials selection.

From: NTSB
To: DOT
Date: 11/6/2001
Response: In a letter to the DOT, dated May 14, 1998, the Safety Board classified Safety Recommendation R-97-36 "Open--Acceptable Response" pending the FTA's and FRA's developing and implementing comparable standards. The Board notes that since then the FRA's Passenger Rail Equipment Safety regulations (Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 238.103) have been revised and now contain updated mandatory fire safety standards. The Safety Board is aware through staff contact that the FTA recommended guidelines on flammability and smoke emissions characteristics of interior materials have not been updated, but that a funding effort is underway to accomplish this update. The Safety Board would appreciate being kept apprised of this effort and informed of the projected timeframe for completing this activity. Given that the FRA's Passenger Rail Equipment Safety regulations have recently been revised and contain updated fire safety standards, it would appear that the FTA's task to update its recommended guidelines should be fairly easy to accomplish. Pending further update, Safety Recommendation R-97-36 remains classified OPEN -- ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: DOT
To: NTSB
Date: 6/13/2001
Response: We are in the process of preparing a response that we will send to you in the near future.

From: NTSB
To: DOT
Date: 6/8/2001
Response: On May 14, 1998, based on information contained in the DOT’s letter of February 3, 1998, the Safety Board classified Safety Recommendation R-97-36 OPEN -- ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE, pending an update on Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Transit Administration efforts to implement comparable standards. To date, the Safety Board has not received any further correspondence from the DOT on this safety recommendation. The Safety Board would appreciate an update on the DOT’s actions, if any, to further implement these recommendations. Copies of the original recommendation letters are enclosed.

From: NTSB
To: DOT
Date: 5/14/1998
Response: The Board is pleased to learn that the DOT modal administrations have reviewed the Department's protocols for test the fire performance of interior materials, with particular emphasis on passenger & transit equipment. We also note that the FRA & the FTA have coordinated their effort & have concluded that their standards & recommended practices have comparable goals & objectives, assessment methodologies, & performance attainment. The Board also notes that the FRA's proposed passenger rail equipment safety regulations will make mandatory those fire safety standards that are currently voluntary. However, the FTA's recommended practices remain voluntary, & letter does not mention any efforts to develop FTA standards in response to this recommendation. The Board appreciates the work underway & hopes that the FRA & FTA will promptly complete the recommended action. Until both the FRA & FTA have comparable standards, R-97-36 will be classified OPEN – ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: DOT
To: NTSB
Date: 2/3/1998
Response: - From Honorable Rodney E. Slater, Secretary : Staff within the office of the Secretary, the USCG, FHWA, FAA, FRA , FTA, NHTSA, & RSPA have carefully reviewed the Department's protocols for testing the fire performance of interior materials in transportation equipment--focusing particularly on passenger rail & transit equipment. The FRA & FTA have coordinated their effort on this subject & have concluded that their standards & recommended practices are comparable in terms of goals & objectives, assessment methodologies, & performance attainment. Accordingly, I believe we have met the intent of the Board's recommendation. FRA & FTA have made significant progress relative to this very serious safety issue. The current FRA guidelines & FTA recommended practices for rail cars specify similar tests & performance criteria for fire safety of materials, including small scale flammability & smoke emission tests for interior materials & a fire endurance test for structural flooring. In addition, on 6/16/97, the FRA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) on passenger rail equipment safety that proposed, among other things, to make mandatory FRA fire safety guidelines, which are now voluntary. The proposal discusses requirements for materials fire safety, fire detection & suppression , fire analysis, & emergency egress/access. FRA followed that initiative with a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), published on 9/23/97, proposing that fire hazard analyses be conducted for existing rail cars. Also, on 2/24/97, the FRA issued another NPRM proposing passenger train emergency preparedness requirements relating to emergency planning, passenger awareness, simulations, debriefings, & emergency exits. The NPRM provision were based on work done at the Volpe center & published by FRA in 1993. Paralleling these mandatory requirements for rail passenger cars FTA has, over the years, provided the rail transit industry research & guidance on how best to address this issue. In 1984, FTA (then the urban mass transit administration) published recommend practices for selecting rail transit materials using flammability & smoke emission tests & performance criteria. In 1993, FTA published a guidance notice containing similar flammability & smoke emission tests & performance criteria for transit buses & vans, similar to those issued for rail transit vehicles. FTA also issued a series of recommended emergency preparedness guidelines. The guideline contain emergency access/egress recommendations for rail transit, as well as urban, rural,& specialized transit systems & also consider evacuation of elderly & disabled persons. We will continue to monitor this very important safety issue.