Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-01-017
Details
Synopsis: On September 26, 1999, about 5:08 p.m. (central daylight time), northbound National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) train 304-26, which was en route from St. Louis, Missouri, to Chicago, Illinois, collided with an automobile, which was westbound on U.S. Route 136. The collision occurred where the Union Pacific Railroad's (UP's) St. Louis Division main line and U.S. Route 136 cross near McLean, Illinois. The automobile driver and passenger were killed as a result of the collision. Amtrak train 304-26 did not derail, and no injuries to the train crewmembers or passengers were reported. Neither the flashing lights nor the gates for the grade crossing activated to warn the automobile driver of the approaching train. A UP signal maintainer had worked on the grade crossing warning devices earlier that day; he had finished his work and left the McLean grade crossing area about 4:30 p.m.
Recommendation: TO THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION: Modify 49 Code of Federal Regulations 219.201(b) as necessary to ensure that the exemption from mandatory postaccident drug and alcohol testing for those involved in highway-rail grade crossing accidents does not apply to any railroad signal, maintenance, and other employees whose actions at or near a grade crossing involved in an accident may have contributed to the occurrence or severity of the accident.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Mode: Railroad
Location: McLean, IL, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: CHI00FR001
Accident Reports:
Report #: RAR-01-03
Accident Date: 9/26/1999
Issue Date: 9/24/2001
Date Closed: 9/16/2019
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FRA (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 9/16/2019
Response: We note that, on June 10, 2016, you published a final rule, Control of Alcohol and Drug Use: Coverage of Maintenance of Way (MOW) Employees and Retrospective Regulatory Review Based Amendments, at 81 Federal Register 37893. This final rule explicitly eliminates the traditional exceptions for postaccident testing in highway–rail grade crossing collisions by requiring railroads to test signal, maintenance, and other regulated employees in connection with a highway–rail grade crossing accident where human factors were involved. This amendment to 49 CFR 219.201(a)(5) satisfies the intent of Safety Recommendation R-01-17, which is classified CLOSED--ACCEPTABLE ACTION.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 5/23/2018
Response: -From Ronald L. Batory, Administrator: This letter is the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) response to twelve National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Safety Recommendations (see list below). Over half of these recommendations are currently classified as "Open - Acceptable Response," and because the FRA has addressed the intent of the recommendations, no further action is necessary. FRA therefore requests that these be classified as "Closed- Acceptable Action." For the remaining five, FRA has evaluated each recommendation relative to current and potential new regulations, including requirements for conducting cost-benefit analysis of each potential measure to address each recommendation, and has concluded FRA cannot reasonably take further action on them. Thus, FRA respectfully asks the NTSB to classify each of them as "Closed." Overall, the twelve Safety Recommendations in question are: • R-01-02 • R-12-21 • R-13-22 • R-14-17 • R-01-17 • R-12-22 • R-13-38 • R-14-44 • R-08-06 • R-12-41 • R-14-16 • R-14-48 In the enclosure, FRA discusses the challenges to implement these recommendations, describes what actions the agency has performed, and explains why FRA cannot proceed further, other than to audit compliance as appropriate. Each recommendation is addressed in the enclosure in the following manner: • NTSB Safety Recommendation Number; • Text of the Safety Recommendation as issued by the NTSB; • Status (e.g., "Open-Acceptable Response"); • FRA's position on the Safety Recommendation (see bolded text in shaded boxes); • A summary of the accident that led the NTSB to issue the recommendation; • A summary of the NTSB and FRA correspondence regarding each recommendation; and • FRA's explanation for why we cannot pursue any further action on the recommendation. To facilitate closure of these recommendations, FRA met with the NTSB on March 1, 2018, to expound on our reasoning and answer questions. This enclosure only includes those recommendations for which we believe we came to an understanding. If FRA can provide further information or assistance, please contact Mr. Robert C. Lauby, Associate Administrator for Railroad Safety and Chief Safety Officer. Please note that Federal agencies like FRA are required to follow the direction of Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 for rulemaking, which require quantifying both costs and benefits, reducing costs, harmonizing rules, and promoting flexibility. Executive Order 12866 specifically states that: Each agency shall assess both the costs and the benefits of the intended regulation and, recognizing that some costs and benefits are difficult to quantify, propose or adopt a regulation only upon a reasoned determination that the benefits of the intended regulation justify its costs. To meet the requirements of these Executive Orders, for each proposed and final regulation issued, FRA performs a regulatory analysis to: 1. Establish whether Federal regulation is necessary and justified to achieve a social goal; and 2. Clarify how to design regulations in the most efficient, least burdensome, and most cost effective manner. While issuing regulations to implement many of these NTSB recommendations could improve railroad safety in the specific railroad accident or incident from which each arose, regulatory action to implement these recommendations would result in financial and safety costs that far exceed the societal benefits of improved safety or accident avoidance. Based on the associated cost-benefit analysis, implementing regulations that are required by some of these recommendations would not meet the intent of the Executive Orders listed above, which is inconsistent with the Administration's regulatory policy. Where applicable, FRA has calculated the anticipated costs and benefits of each recommendation and included that information with each detailed response. Please also note, in the 2016 Federal Railroad Administration Report to Congress on Actions Taken to Implement Unmet Statutory Mandates and Address Open Recommendations by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Department of Transportation's Inspector General Regarding Railroad Safety, FRA informed Congress that the agency would be taking no further action on these twelve recommendations. Current Status: Open-Acceptable Response FRA believes that NTSB Safety Recommendation R-01-17 addressed by the June 2016 amendment of 49 CFR 219.201(a)(5) that requires railroads to test signal, maintenance, and other regulated employees in connection with highway-rail grade crossing accidents where human factors were involved. FRA intends to take no further action, and respectfully requests that the NTSB close this recommendation. The NTSB issued Safety Recommendation R-01-17 in response to a September 26, 1999, accident near McLean, IL, in which a northbound National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) train, en route from St. Louis, MO, to Chicago, IL, collided with an automobile at a crossing of Union Pacific Railroad's (UP) St. Louis Division main line and U.S. Route 136. The collision killed the automobile driver and passenger. The Amtrak train did not derail, and no injuries to the train crewmembers or passengers were reported. Neither the flashing lights nor the gates for the grade crossing activated to warn the automobile driver of the approaching train. A UP signal maintainer had worked on the grade crossing warning devices earlier that day.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 7/20/2016
Response: -From Sarah E. Feinberg, Administrator: On June 10, 2016, FRA published a final rule entitled Control of Alcohol and Drug Use: Coverage of Maintenance of Way (MOW) Employees and Retrospective Regulatory Review Based Amendments. 81 Fed. Reg. 37893. The final rule responds to Section 412 of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA) and Safety Recommendations R -08-07 and R -01-17. The final rule responds to Safety Recommendation R-08-07 by expanding the scope of FRA's drug and alcohol regulations found at Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 219, Control of Alcohol and Drug Use, to cover MOW employees. In the final rule, FRA adopts the definition of "roadway worker" found in 49 CFR Part 214, Railroad Workplace Safety, to define "MOW employee" under 49 CFR Part 219. As the final rule explains, FRA did not expand 49 CFR Part 219's scope to cover every employee performing safety-sensitive functions as described in 49 CFR §§ 209.301 and 209.303. Section 412 of the RSIA did not direct FRA to expand Part 219 to additional crafts of railroad employees beyond MOW employees, and no comments to the rulemaking docket supported so wide an expansion. Further, FRA found no overriding safety interest justifying such an expansion. See 81 FR 37894, 37896 (June 10, 2016). However, FRA continues to monitor other railroad employee crafts by conducting postaccident toxicological testing for all railroad employees who are fatally-injured in train accidents and incidents under 49 CFR § 219.203(a)(4)(ii). FRA is also collecting data for all on-duty railroad employee fatalities caused by drug overdose. The final rule also responds to Safety Recommendation R-0 1-17 by amending 49 CFR § 219.201(a)(5) generally to require railroads to test signal, maintenance, and other regulated employees in connection with a highway-rail grade crossing accident where human factors were involved including the following: (i) A regulated employee who interfered with the normal functioning of a grade crossing signal system, in testing or otherwise, without first taking measures to provide for the safety of highway traffic that depends on the normal functioning of such system; (ii) A train crewmember who was, or who should have been, flagging highway traffic to stop due to an activation failure of the grade crossing system; (iii) A regulated employee who was performing, or should have been performing, the duties of an appropriately equipped flagger due to an activation failure, partial activation, or false activation of the grade crossing signal system; (iv) A fatality to any regulated employee performing duties for the railroad, regardless of fault; or (v) A regulated employee who violated an FRA regulation or railroad operating rule and whose actions may have played a role in the cause or severity of the accident/incident. This final rule narrows the previous blanket testing exemption for grade crossing accidents. FRA believes this action meets the intent of Safety Recommendation R-0 1-17 and does not intend to take any further action. I appreciate your ongoing interest in these important safety issues. If I can provide further information or assistance.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 5/15/2015
Response: On September 26, 2014, we submitted comments on your notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), “Control of Alcohol and Drug Use: Coverage of Maintenance of Way Employees, Retrospective Regulatory Review-Based Amendments (RRR)” (79 Federal Register 43830, July 28, 2014). I have enclosed a copy of our comments for your convenience. We are pleased that you propose to narrow the current exemption to 49 CFR 219.201(b) by creating a new qualifying event, human-factor highway-rail grade crossing accident/incident, which would specify when post-accident testing would be required after a qualifying highway rail grade crossing accident/incident. Pending issuance of the final rule, Safety Recommendation R-01-17 is classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE. We encourage you to expedite this action.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 1/27/2015
Response: -From Sarah Feinberg, Acting Administrator: This letter is to update you on the status of the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) Safety Recommendations R-00-01 through R-00-04, R-01-17, and R-08-07, issued to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Safety Recommendation R-00-01 asks FRA to establish procedures and criteria for train operating crewmembers who take medications on a list of drugs approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Safety Recommendations R-00-02 through R-00-03 ask FRA to address the hazards of train operating crewmembers using specific medications while performing their duties. Safety Recommendation R-00-04 asks FRA, in coordination with DOT, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, and the U.S. Coast Guard, to conduct post-mortem toxicological testing on a sample number of accident fatalities to determine if the use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs played a role in these fatal accidents. Safety Recommendation R-01-17 asks FRA to narrow its current highway-rail grade crossing exemption to allow the post-accident toxicological testing of any employee who may have contributed to the occurrence or severity of an accident. Finally, Safety Recommendation R-08-07 asks FRA to expand the scope of its drug and alcohol testing program to cover all employees and agents performing the functions listed in Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Section 209.303. In Enclosure 1, FRA explains the actions that it has taken in response to Safety Recommendations R-00-01 through R-00-04, R-01-17, and R-08-07. FRA respectfully requests that the NTSB classify Safety Recommendation R-00-01 as "Closed-Unacceptable," Safety Recommendations R-00-02 through R-00-04 and R-08-07 as "Open-Acceptable Response," and Recommendation R-01-17 as "Closed-Acceptable Action." We look forward to continuing to work with you on important safety issues. FRA agrees with this recommendation. In the July 2014 NPRM referred to in the response to R-00-04 above, FRA proposed to narrow the current exemption to§ 219.201(b) by creating a new qualifying event, "Human-factor highway-rail grade crossing accident/incident," which would specify when PAT testing would be required after a qualifying human-factor highway-rail grade crossing accident/incident. The NTSB supported this proposal in a comment submitted to the docket of the NPRM.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 9/26/2014
Response: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has reviewed the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), “Control of Alcohol and Drug Use: Coverage of Maintenance of Way Employees, Retrospective Regulatory Review-Based Amendments (RRR)” published in the Federal Register July 28, 2014. We appreciate this opportunity to comment on the proposed rulemaking in response to Congress’ mandate in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and are encouraged by the FRA addressing NTSB safety recommendations in these proposed fundamental revisions to this rule. In this section of the NPRM, the FRA references NTSB Safety Recommendation R 01 17, which we issued as a result of our investigation into the September 26, 1999, accident in McLean, Illinois, in which an Amtrak train collided with an automobile, killing both vehicle occupants. In the NPRM, FRA notes: Currently § 219.201(b) excepts PAT testing from any event involving a “collision between railroad rolling stock and motor vehicle or other highway conveyance at a rail/highway grade crossing.” FRA is proposing to narrow this exception to require PAT testing after any highway-rail grade crossing accident/incident in which human factor errors may have played a role. (Section V.E, p. 43840) We support the FRA’s proposal to narrow this exception. While we are acutely aware that determining the probable cause of an accident is typically labor intensive and time-consuming, quickly establishing whether any employees might have violated critical safety rules is often not difficult. In some instances, the evidence or circumstances of the accident will be apparent enough to suspect a human factor error. Such was the case in the September 26, 1999, highway rail grade crossing accident in McLean, Illinois, where the crossing warning system did not activate after the signal maintainer had worked on the equipment earlier that day. We also note in all accident investigations, investigators typically evaluate the performance of the train’s operating crewmembers to determine compliance with federal regulations and operating rules. In these cases, determining the cause of human error involves evaluating numerous factors, including the presence of drugs or alcohol. Therefore, if it is reasonable to suspect a train crew did not comply with a federal regulation or railroad operating rule in the case of a highway-rail grade crossing accident, it is also reasonable to conduct PAT testing to ensure illegal drugs or alcohol are not playing a role in such accidents.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 1/15/2014
Response: The FRA’s last letter to us regarding this recommendation was dated August 19, 2009. Based on information contained in that letter, Safety Recommendation R-01-17 was classified “Open—Acceptable Response” on June 28, 2010, pending the publication of a final rule addressing it. We have no evidence that the FRA has made any progress on this issue since 2009. Accordingly, pending an update from the FRA regarding its actions to address Safety Recommendation R-01-17, this recommendation is classified OPEN—UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 12/1/2011
Response: CC# 201100449 was closed administratively; no response was written or mailed.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 4/12/2011
Response: -From Ray LaHood, Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation: NTSB Classification and Actions Taken by FRA: Open – Acceptable Response. In August 2001, an extensive revision of 49 CFR § 219.201(b) concluded shortly before the NTSB issued this recommendation. However, FRA agrees that the exemption portion of its alcohol and drug testing regulation should be narrowed from its present universal exclusion of all railroad employees from post-accident toxicological testing when highway-rail grade crossing accidents occur. To address this issue, FRA will include an appropriate proposal in an NPRM for revising 49 CFR Part 219 that is expected to be published by spring 2011. Actions Needed to Be Taken by FRA: Issue regulations.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 6/28/2010
Response: The NTSB is pleased that the FRA is nearing completion of a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for revision of 49 CFR Part 219. Pending completion of a final rule for limiting the exemption from mandatory postaccident drug and alcohol testing for employees whose actions may have contributed to a highway-rail grade crossing accident, Safety Recommendation R-01-17 is classified OPEN -- ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE. Safety Recommendation R-03-12 was issued on August 15, 2003, as a result of the derailment of an Amtrak auto train on the CSXT Railroad near Crescent City, Florida, on April 18, 2002.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 8/19/2009
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 8/26/2009 9:34:30 AM MC# 2090530: - From Joseph C. Szabo, Administrator: August 2001, an extensive revision of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Section 219.201(b) concluded shortly before NTSB issued this recommendation. However, FRA agreed that the exemption portion of its alcohol and drug testing regulation should be narrowed from its present universal exclusion of all railroad employees from post-accident toxicological testing when highway-rail grade crossing accidents occur. To address this issue, FRA will include an appropriate proposal in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for revision of 49 CFR Part 219 within the next few months. FRA counsel and staff having been working on the preparation of this document and it is approaching completion. The FRA respectfully requests that NTSB continue to classify Safety Recommendation 11-01-1 7 as "Open-Acceptable Response."

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 1/30/2008
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 3/13/2008 3:46:15 PM MC# 2080122 - From Ken Naylor, Federal Railroad Administration: In reference to NTSB Recommendation R-01-017.. .I’ve been total that Yes. This is Dresentlv in our Part 219 recommended changes. I was also told that we will be publishing a NPRM this year which will include or recommending remove from exemption of mandatory post-accident drug and alcohol testing those individuals whose actions may have contributed to the occurrence or severity of the incident.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 4/15/2002
Response: The Safety Board notes the FRA's agreement that the exemption portion of its alcohol and drug testing regulation at 49 CFR Section 219.201(b) should be narrowed from its present universal exclusion of all railroad employees from postaccident toxicological testing when highway-rail grade crossing accidents occur. The FRA points out that, in August 2001, it concluded an extensive revision of Part 219 and, accordingly, will address this issue at an appropriate time in light of other programs and priorities. With that in mind, the FRA indicates that it will examine under what circumstances signal maintainers would be required to submit specimens for postaccident toxicological testing and will consider whether other employees not covered by the hours-of-service regulations should also be subject to testing. In consideration of the FRA's agreement with the intent of the recommendation, Safety Recommendation R-01-17 is classified OPEN -- ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE. With respect to the issue of the FRA's accident/incident databases, the Safety Board appreciates the detailed discussion of how the FRA performs an ongoing validation process to verify that railroad-reported data are accurate and complete. We now have a better understanding of the process and of some of the difficulties the agency faces in maintaining the credibility of the data. Thank you for your ongoing efforts to pursue quality control and enforcement activities that will help ensure the quality of your databases.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 1/31/2002
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 03/15/2002 8:31:12 AM MC# 2020291 - From Allan Rutter, Administrator: The Safety Board's post-accident investigation determined that the probable cause of this accident was a failure on the part of a UP signal maintainer to remove a jumper wire from the grade crossing control relay after he had performed maintenance at the crossing site earlier that day, and failed to verify the operational status of the active warning system at the conclusion of the job, as required by UP rules. This resulted in the failure of the crossing gates and flashing lights to activate as Amtrak train 304-26 approached the crossing to warn the driver of the approaching train. The Safety Board further determined that the signal maintainer was not required to provide drug and/or alcohol samples for testing under Federal regulations, or under UP's own authority. Under present FRA regulations, the signal maintainer was excluded from 49 CFR Section 2 19.20 1 (b), post-accident toxicological testin g, due to the general exclusion that applies to all railroad employees when accidents occur as a result of a highway-rail grade crossing accident. The railroad's manager of signal maintenance evaluated the signal maintainer at the accident site, and based upon his assessment that the signal maintainer evidencing no signs of drug or alcohol impairment, decided not to require testing under 49 CFR Section 219.300, "Mandatory reasonable suspicion testing," under 49 CFR Section 219.301, "Testing for reasonable cause," or under UP's reasonable cause provisions. The Safety Board concluded that FRA should modify 49 CFR Section 2 19.20 1 (b), to require post-accident toxicological testing of railroad signal, maintenance, and other employees whose actions at or near a grade crossing site may have contributed to the occurrence or severity of a grade crossing accident. The Safety Board believes this change will aid in future investigations of such accidents. FRA has considered the Safety Board's findings and this recommendation, and agrees that the exemption portion of our alcohol and drug testing regulation at 49 CFR Section 2 19.201 (b) should be narrowed from its present universal exclusion of all railroad employees from post-accident toxicological testing when highway-rail grade crossing accidents occur. FRA also agrees with the Safety Board's support of FRA's policy of exempting train crews from post-accident testing after grade crossing accidents. As the Safety Board recognizes, the train crew is unlikely to have contributed to the occurrence or severity of a grade crossing accident since there is little chance of avoiding a motor vehicle once it is on the tracks because the crew has a short sight distance and a long stopping distance. FRA realizes that signal maintainers have a greater likelihood of contributing to the occurrence or severity of a grade crossing accident, as evidenced by the McLean accident. However, the issue of modifying the exception to 49 CFR Section 219.201(b) to subject signal maintainers to FRA post-accident toxicological testing following a highway-rail grade crossing accident, is distinct from subjecting other types of railroad maintenance personnel to similar testing following a highway-rail grade crossing accident. With two exceptions1, 49 CFR Part 219 applies only to covered employees, defined in 49 CFR Section 219.5 as persons assigned to perform service subject to the hours of service laws (49 U.S.C. Chapter 211). Section 228.5 of FRA's hours of service regulations, 49 CFR Part 228, defines covered employees as those who are: (1) engaged in or connected with the movement of trains; (2) involved in the dispatching or receiving of orders pertaining to train movements; or (3) engaged in installing, maintaining, or repairing signal systems. Train crews (e.g., engineers, conductors, brakemen), train dispatchers, and signal maintainers are covered employees. However, other types of maintenance employees, such as maintenance-of-way (track) workers and mechanics, are not. FRA will explore this issue fully during our next review of revisions to our present regulations on control of alcohol and drug use. We will examine under what circumstances signal maintainers would be required to submit specimens for post-accident toxicological testing as we modify the present total exemption from 49 CFR Section 2 19.20 1 (b) following a highway-rail grade crossing accident. FRA will give consideration to the issue that an active warning system would need to be in place at a crossing site involved in a highway-rail grade crossing accident, to allow sufficient justification to warrant post-accident toxicological testing of a signal maintainer We will also give consideration to the possibility of expanding the scope of 49 CFR Part 219 to include more than covered employees to allow post-accident toxicological testing of other railroad maintenance workers if sufficient reasons for justification can be determined. Once we have considered the necessary adjustments to the present exemption to 49 CFR Section 219.201(b), we will issue a notice of proposed rulemaking to receive comments from all interested parties prior to issuing a final rule modifying this present exception. I wish to emphasize that on August 9, 2001, FRA concluded an extensive revision of Part 219; accordingly, this issue will be addressed at an appropriate time in light of other programs and priorities. The Safety Board's letter _____________________________ 1/ Exceptions: (1) For pre-employment testing only, applicants are considered covered employees. Also, (2) FRA conducts post-accident testing whenever an on-duty railroad employee is killed, regardless OF whether that person was a covered employee. Also expressed concern about the FRA's accident/incident database, noting that the report from UP for the McLean accident, accessible to the public on FRA's website, contained an inaccurate primary cause of the accident, that being "driver inattentiveness" on the part of the automobile driver. As you note, FRA did file violations against UP for their failure to submit a revised report to correct the cause once the true cause of the accident became known to FRA. FRA also filed a violation against Amtrak for a similar failure on their part by not providing a correction to a critical detail on their report of the highway-rail grade crossing accident. As a result of the incorrect information remaining on FRA's website for a considerable length of time, the Safety Board encouraged FRA to make the updating and maintenance of its accident database a priority. The FRA gives a very high priority to maintaining all of our computerized safety databases. Each month, all the accident/incident databases (as provided by 49 CFR 225) are updated with the latest formal railroad submission from the previous month and all the amendments. These databases are converted into multiple formats, are available internally to FRA, and are posted on the FRA "Safety Data" website for review in both printed form and downloading. The accident/incident reports for the railroads are received by FRA 30 days after the close of the month in which the event occurred. All railroads are required to submit a completed FRA Form F6 180.55 (operational summary), indicating the number of train miles operated, employee hours worked, and other operational statistics occurring during the month. Additionally, if there was a reportable injury, a rail-equipment accident, and/or a highway-rail grade crossing accident, the railroad must file a unique report for each event. These reports are signed, notarized, and submitted. Once received, FRA does not change any of the details within the reports submitted without explicit permission from the submitting railroad. FRA contracts with a data processing firm to receive and process the monthly accident/incident report submissions received from the railroads. FRA has provided this firm with extensive instructions on quality control checks to perform on the data submitted with each report. These standards are applied to all reports of every railroad, every month. Routinely, the employees of the contracted data processing firm will find coding errors (e.g., an invalid code, incorrect values in blocks detected by cross validation testing, spelling errors, etc.) in the reports received from the railroads. When these errors are found, the railroad is contacted and asked to re-assess their original detail reporting. Once the railroad has made this re-assessment, the railroad then provides corrections. Corrections are documented on the report by FRA's contracted data processing firm in red pencil, along with the name of the railroad representative who provided the corrected information, the date and time. These reports represent exactly what the railroad has submitted to the FRA. During routine audits, accident investigations, and complaint investigations, and through employee statements provided to FRA under 49 CFR Section 225.13, FRA becomes aware of differences or errors in the reports as filed by the railroad under 49 CFR Part 225. FRA will advise the railroads of these discrepancies. The rai!road must then submit an amendment, or corrected report. If the discrepancy is severe, as in the case of the McLean accident, the FRA may propose a civil penalty with the potential for additional counts if the violation continues, but will not unilaterally change the report submitted by the railroad. (In some cases, railroads report findings that differ from FRA's determinations as a result of legitimate differences of judgment related to interpretation of the facts. As you know, Safety Board and FRA accident investigation reports provide independent findings of probable cause for accidents involving significant public interest.) FRA does perform an on-going and massive validation process to verify that the railroad-reported data are accurate and complete. When errors are detected, they are brought to the attention of the railroad, and the railroad is given the opportunity to fix their reported data. FRA requires railroads to submit updates to all the previous year's reports by April 15 of each year. After the final validation process is completed, the databases are closed for the previous year, and FRA's annual publication, Railroad Safety Statistics, is compiled and printed. Late reports and other amendments made after the database has been closed for the previous calendar year, are not made to the database that is viewed on FRA's website. Updating is not performed so that the data contained in the database on FRA's website matches the data contained in the annual Railroad Safety Statistics publication. FRA has found that it is not feasible to keep previous year databases open indefinitely, in the event that an additional late report or reports are submitted by a railroad considerably late and after our annual close-out. The concern has been that this would cause previous year databases to yield different results than our annual publications, make reconciliation of various statistical runs by FRA and other parties very difficult, and give rise to questions concerning the credibility of the data. The only exception that we have made to updating databases after the close of a calendar year is with respect to a special database for highway-rail grade crossing accidents. This special database is available for querying crossings and accident prediction on the Safety Data Crossing Page. This database it is not available to be downloaded from FRA's website in machine-readable format, but the individual records are provided for download in printed (PDF) format. We do permit continual updating of this special database whenever late highway-rail grade crossing accidents are reported regardless of the year the accident occurred. This database is not structured to yield annual statistics. Rather, it is used to support our highway-rail grade crossing accident prediction system, and to make available the individual accident histories at each crossing site. FRA believes that the benefits obtained by entering late highway-rail grade crossing accident reports into this special database, regardless of when received, outweigh the additional cost. By doing so, we maintain the accuracy and importance of grade crossing accident histories at individual crossings, and we ensure that the grade crossing accident prediction system is working with accurate and complete data. However, we share your concern that data employed in safety programs have a high degree of integrity. Accordingly, beginning with the Calendar Year 2001 Accident/Incident Databases, the FRA will adopt a two step approach. The FRA will do some cross-field and cross-database validation in May of the following year. The FRA will then produce an interim Railroad Safety Statistics publication to be posted on the FRA Safety Data website. The FRA will continue to receive and update train accidents, grade crossing crashes and casualty data until December 1. At that time the FRA will do extensive editing of all the databases described in the previous paragraphs and close the database. The final Railroad Safetv Statistics publication will be generated. This Report will be published and posted on the web. Furthermore, in the event that the database is closed and a special circumstance arises that necessitates revising the closed database the FRA will make those changes. The website and annual Railroad Safetv Statistics will not be the same, and both will be annotated indicating the reason why statistics for the same year may appear differently within each of these sources. FRA assures the Safety Board that we are most concerned about accurate accident/incident statistics in all of our databases. Special accident/ incident audits have been conducted this year to minimize late reports, and appropriate enforcement actions have been taken when noncompliance has been determined. FRA will continue to pursue these quality control and enforcement activities to ensure that our databases remain of very high quality.