-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 (both recommendations): Open-Acceptable Response
FRA funded the development of a risk assessment tool specifically designed for short line railroads, as suggested in Safety Recommendation R-14-16. The tool is in use, and FRA is auditing railroads for compliance. FRA believes its ongoing annual audit program satisfies Safety Recommendation R-14-17; therefore, FRA does not intend to take any further action beyond continuing the audits, and respectfully requests that the NTSB close these recommendations.
The NTSB issued identical Safety Recommendations R-14-16 and R-14-17 to FRA, and R-14-20 and R-14-21 to PHMSA, in response to an accident on November 30, 2012, in Paulsboro, NJ, in which a Consolidated Rail Corporation train derailed while traveling over a moveable bridge, resulting in the release of three tank cars containing vinyl chloride.
FRA's actions to address R-14-16 and R-14-17: On March 16, 2016, PHMSA submitted its response to Safety Recommendations R-14-20 and R-14-21. In its response, PHMSA stated the following:
[Given that NTSB has issued the exact same recommendations under Safety Recommendations R-14-16 and R-14-17 to FRA, we see no safety reason for the duplication of safety recommendations issued to FRA and P HMSA, as Safety Recommendations R -14-16 and R-14-17 require the same collaboration among the relevant parties as Safety Recommendations R-14-20 and R-14-21.
On April 7, 2017, the NTSB classified Safety Recommendations R-14-20 and R-14-21 to PHMSA as "Closed-Acceptable Action," and stated in the response to PHMSA the following:
We are pleased that you have collaborated with the FRA and the ASLRRA, as well as with the Association of American Railroads (AAR), to provide assessment methods to reduce or eliminate hazards on a rail corridor. We note that the FRA has audited Class 1 railroads, AAR has a rail corridor risk management system program, and PHMSA has conducted joint sessions with each entity to ensure that railroads other than Class 1, such as regional and short line railroads, have developed their own programs to analyze safety and security risks along routes. Accordingly, Safety Recommendations R-14-20 and-21 are classified CLOSED--ACCEPTABLE ACTION
Based on the NTSB's closure of the Safety Recommendations issued to PHMSA, and FRA's intent to continue auditing short line and regional railroads' compliance with the Hazardous Materials Regulations' route analysis requirements, FRA believes it has met the intent of the recommendations. FRA therefore respectfully asks that the NTSB reclassify Safety Recommendations R-14-16 and R-14-17 as, "Closed-Acceptable Action."