Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-14-017
Synopsis: This report discusses the 2012 accident in which a Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) train derailed while traveling over a moveable bridge in Paulsboro, New Jersey. Three tank cars containing vinyl chloride came to rest in Mantua Creek, of which one was breached and released about 20,000 gallons of vinyl chloride. On that day, 28 residents sought medical attention for possible exposure, and the train crew and many emergency responders were also exposed. Damage estimates were $451,000 for equipment and about $30 million for emergency response and remediation. This report addresses safety issues: training and qualification of train crews for moveable bridge inspection; Conrail safety management; timeliness of hazardous materials communications to first responders; failure of the incident commanders to follow established hazardous materials response protocols; firefighter training and qualifications; inadequacies of emergency planning, emergency preparedness, and public awareness for hazardous materials transported by train; and rail corridor risk management analysis. Safety recommendations to: Conrail, US Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Association of American Railroads, American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Volunteer Fire Council, four New Jersey state agencies, with three reiterated.
Recommendation: TO THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION: Collaborate with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association to conduct audits of short line and regional railroads to ensure that proper route risk assessments that identify safety and security vulnerabilities are being performed and are incorporated into a safety management system program.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Open - Acceptable Response
Mode: Railroad
Location: Paulsboro, NJ, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Accident #: DCA-13-MR-002
Accident Reports:
Report #: RAR-14-01
Accident Date: 11/30/2012
Issue Date: 8/22/2014
Date Closed:
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FRA (Open - Acceptable Response)

Safety Recommendation History
From: FRA
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 (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."

From: FRA
Date: 5/16/2016
Response: -From Sarah E. Feinberg, Administrator: This letter is to update you on the status of the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) responses to certain National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Safety Recommendations (R-01-02 R-04-07 R-05-17 R-07-02 R-08-12 R-14-02 R-14-16 and R-14-17) issued to the FRA. In the enclosure, FRA responds to these Safety Recommendations and explains the actions it has taken in response to them. FRA's actions, once implemented, will satisfy the intent of these open NTSB recommendations and FRA will keep the NTSB informed of their completion. As former FRA Administrator, Joseph C. Szabo, noted in his November 11, 2014, letter to the NTSB, FRA funded the development and beta testing of the Hazmat Transportation Risk Analytical Model (H-TRAM) Web-based software tool. This tool was developed for short line and regional railroads to perform safety and security risk analyses in accordance with 49 CFR § 172.820, Additional planning requirements for transportation by rail. The tool uses railroad operating information and route attributes to assess the 27 key risk factors listed in Part 172, Appendix D, Rail Risk Analysis Factors, with particular emphasis on population density. FRA funded an independent verification and validation of the tool, and findings of this study (primarily "ease of use" issues and process documentation) are being addressed. Currently, 14 railroad companies use H-TRAM. FRA has requested funding to continue supporting this project. Regarding the recommendation to conduct audits of short line and regional railroad risk assessments, FRA has an established program to audit compliance with § 172.820 by visiting most, if not all, of the Class I railroads, as well as a select number of short line and regional railroads annually. To date, the audits show that carriers are operating in compliance with the regulation. More specifically, among regional and short line railroads, the audits show that railroads not using the Rail Corridor Risk Management System or H-TRAM use alternative methodologies to analyze the safety and security risks along routes subject to the route analysis requirements. Furthermore, FRA continues to collaborate with the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) to promote the importance of performing a complete and thorough route analysis. For example, at the March 2015 ASLRRA conference, FRA joined with Countermeasure Assessment & Security Experts (CASE), the developers of H-TRAM, in providing an overview of the use of H-TRAM, as well as detailing FRA's expectations of railroads during security audits. CASE and FRA also highlighted the ongoing system improvements and the creation of a Web-based training program for railroads. FRA intends to continue auditing short line and regional railroads' compliance with the HMR's route analysis requirements to identify safety and security vulnerabilities. FRA's ongoing audit program satisfies NTSB recommendations; therefore, FRA does not intend to take any further action in response to these recommendations beyond continuing the audits.

From: NTSB
Date: 1/23/2015
Response: We are encouraged that the FRA, PHMSA, and the ASLRRA have initiated efforts to address this issue, and that your agency and the ASLRRA are collaborating to develop and implement a Hazmat Transportation Analytical Risk Model (H-TRAM) specifically for short line railroads subject to section 172.820 to use in collecting data and analyzing route risks. Pending completion of the recommended action, Safety Recommendations R-14-16 and -17 are classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FRA
Date: 11/24/2014
Response: -From Joseph C. Szabo, Administrator: FRA funded the development and beta testing of the Hazmat Transportation Risk Analytical Model (H-TRAM). This is a tool developed for shortline and regional railroads to perform the safety and security risk evaluation in accordance with the Hazardous Materials Regulations (see 49 CFR § 172.820, Additional planning requirements for transportation by rail). FRA has a request for proposal out for an independent verification and validation of the model. Once this is completed, FRA will work with the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association to identify an entity that will host and maintain the software. For the hosting of H-TRAM, FRA has one candidate that has provided a proposal requesting FRA funding. FRA's Hazardous Materials Division has been performing routine audits in conjunction with security plan audits. Most recently, FRA audited the railroads participating in the beta testing of H-TRAM.