-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-Unacceptable Response
FRA believes implementation of this recommendation would result in an overall decrease in the safety of passengers and crew members as explained below. FRA intends to take no further action, and respectfully requests that the NTSB close this recommendation.
The NTSB issued Safety Recommendation R-12-41 in response to a June 24, 2011, accident near
. Miriam, NV, where a truck-tractor failed to stop at a highway grade crossing and struck the side of an Amtrak train that was passing through the grade crossing. The collision and resulting fire destroyed the truck-tractor and two passenger railcars. The train came to a stop without derailing, but the accident killed the truck driver, the train conductor, and four train passengers; 15 train passengers and one crewmember were injured.
In its February 12, 2015, correspondence to the NTSB, FRA stated that it is not feasible to design doors that would meet the requirements of this recommendation. The NTSB stated in its August 11, 2016, reply:
In your letter, you state that, during an emergency, additional time and effort is needed to operate a fire door, delaying egress and access through such a door. Although we agree that egress and access through end doors is paramount, the recommended fire-rated door would delay the spread of heat, flame, and smoke and would thus help to prevent serious or fatal injury. A formal evaluation of both (1) the technology of fire-rated doors for rail passenger cars and (2) the benefits of reducing the risks of smoke and fire spreading compared to risks posed by impediments to egress is needed before concluding, as you have, that competing safety objectives preclude benefits from the action we recommend.
We acknowledge that the issues you raise in your letter are important, but until they are formally evaluated, they should not be considered a basis for concluding that the recommended action is not warranted. Accordingly, pending your taking the recommended action or conducting a formal evaluation that determines the recommended action is not justified, Safety Recommendation R-12-41 requires that remains classified OPEN-UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.
FRA's actions to address R-12-41: Safety Recommendation R-12-41 calls for requiring doors in passenger railcars be designed to prevent fire and smoke from moving between railcars. FRA recognizes the door at the end of the car as a path of emergency egress and access. In a collision or derailment, minor distortions of the door structure, or a change in the orientation of the door due to a car being displaced from its upright position, could cause the door to fail to operate as intended. As such, FRA has required emergency door releases and removable windows or panels be installed in these doors to enable emergency egress without the use of a tool. In an emergency, FRA believes that, if the door functioned, it would be left open by exiting passengers during an evacuation. If the removable window or panel were used, it would emulate an open door. In either case, any enhancements made to the door to stop fire and smoke from traveling between railcars would be defeated.
FRA respectfully asks that the NTSB reclassify Safety Recommendation R-12-41 as, "Closed Reconsidered."