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Proportion of primary
total derailments (percent) train-miles
1961 1966 Trend 1961 1966 Trend (percent)
Proportion Number of of total Number of of total Number of of total derailments derailments derailments derailments derailments derailments (percent)
Mr. CROTTY. In view of the foregoing clear-cut statement, why, it may be asked, has legislation of this kind never been passed by Congress?
This legislation has been strongly opposed by the railroads, who have attempted to obscure the primary and important safety features by charging that it is a make-work device.
When a serious railroad accident occurs, there is usually a widespread clamor in the State or community concerned for something to be done to prevent the recurrence of such an incident. When the tumult dies down, however, little or nothing is done in the absence of a governing law.
There are many unsafe conditions on the railroads and safety laws that would be instrumental in revealing and bringing about a correction of these conditions are badly needed.
This is borne out by experience in the States where complaints filed with the appropriate commission have unearthed hundreds of cases of prevailing unsafe conditions which the state body has ordered corrected. The failure of nearly all States, however, to enter this field has made the control of unsafe conditions on the railroad by a Federal agency essential.
Yet at the present time in only four States, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York do we have anything approaching effective means of bringing about a safer condition of tracks and bridges.
Accidents resulting from defective or improperly maintained tracks, bridges, or other facilities are numerous. In order to impress upon you
the fact that this is a major problem, I need only refer to a few recent railroad accidents, of which there are about 7,000 annually, that could and should have been prevented.
On June 26, 1967, a Louisville & Nashville rairoad passenger train derailed resulting in the injury of 31 passengers and employees. This was one of the few accidents investigated by the FRÅ Bureau of Safety and it found that the accident was caused by a broken rail.
On August 4, 1967, a Pennsylvania Railroad passenger train derailed resulting in the injury of 20 passengers and employees. The accident was caused by an inadequately maintained track.
On August 15, 1967, a Northern Pacific Railroad Co. freight train struck a track motor car, resulting in the death of two maintenanceof-way employees. The Board found that the track motor car was without protection against such a collision.
I will not burden the committee with more examples. Suffice it is to say the time for better safety is now. Detailed information on these accidents is available to the Department of Transportation and can govern it in determining the rules and regulations to be adopted under the authority granted by the proposed legislation.
One very important point which I think must be emphasized is that under the present law investigations are made only after an accident has occurred.
The Department of Transportation can take no preventive action. The proposed legislation, would empower it to take appropriate steps to unearth unsafe conditions and thus help prevent railroad accidents.
A discussion of the safety of railroad tracks and bridges invariably raises this question:
Are the railroads' facilities being undermaintained? The railroads contend that they are not, but they admit that a tremendous amount of maintenance is being "deferred."
For example, preliminary figures indicate that class I railroads inserted 400,000 tons of new rail in existing tracks in 1967. This was a drop of over 200,000 tons, or 33.9 percent, compared with 605,338 tons of new rail laid in 1966.
Near the end of 1966, 36 railroads furnished figures to Railroad Age, which is a railroad house organ, showing the number of railroad ties each railroad expected to insert in trackage for renewal purposed in 1967.
An examination of the figures showed that only nine of the railroads equalled or exceeded their earlier projections.
According to the Association of American Railroads, class I railroads, in the first 9 months of 1967—the latest figures which we have disbursed the same amount of money for property maintenance at the same level that has prevailed for some time.
The same amount of money being spent despite increases in the cost of manpower and materials obviously means less and, therefore, ineffective maintenance.
When does long-deferred maintenance become undermaintenance ? The line of demarcation is very thin and difficult to define.
If the policy of deferral is continued, a point is eventually reached where the safe condition of tracks and structures is seriously affected. In our opinion, that point has been reached on many railroads.
Another aspect which must be considered is the policy of the railroads to base maintenance expenditures not upon need but upon their financial condition. Railroad maintenance officers who wish to remain anonymous have stated that when they receive their budget for the year covering track and bridge maintenance they try to use it as quickly as possible for fear that it may later be reduced. It is obvious that an effective and adequate maintenance program cannot be carried out under such conditions. Yet gearing maintenance to finances is almost a universal practice in the railroad industry.
Commenting on the tremendous maintenance savings enjoyed by the railroads over a 10-year period, the February 1964 issue of Railway Track and Structures (p. 8) had these questions to ask:
Where, then, did the bulk of the savings come from? Did it come about as a result of the accumulation of deferred maintenance? If so, would it not be wise to put some of the "savings" back into the properties?
It also makes the following comments: The planning of track programs today seems to be widely conditioned by a type of thinking that considers only the minimal requirements.
Frequently, decisions seem to be based on the approach, "how little can we get by with ?" rather than, “how much is needed ?"
These quotations from an organ of the railroad industry leave little doubt that it is the general consensus that the railroads are in the marginal area, if not below, from the standpoint of maintenance.
It is axiomatic that railroad tracks, bridges, and other structures cannot be properly maintained without an adequate force of trained employees. Table 8 in the supplementary statement prepared by Mr. Winfield Homer and submitted for the record by Mr. Chesser shows the almost unbelievable reduction in the number of maintenance-ofway employees on class I railroads from 1950 to 1967. It will be noted that during this 17-year span, over three out of every five jobs have been abolished.
The heavily reduced forces in the maintenance-of-way department mean, in relative terms, that today, as compared to 1950, less than twofifths the number of employees are traveling over the right-of-way in the course of their work and are in a position to spot any unsafe condition.
Moreover, the increasing use of highway trucks by the railroads to replace track motor cars means that of this greatly reduced number of employees, fewer are traveling over the tracks in the course of their work. Thus, an unsafe or hazardous condition is less likely to be spotted today than at any time in modern railroad history.
Table I at the end of my statement shows the maintenance-of-way hours of service per mile of road on class I railroads and the average miles of road operated per employee for selected years from 1922 to 1966.
It will be noted that as late as 1950 class I railroads operated 2.13 miles of road for each section man (trackman) but that by 1966, this figure had almost quadrupled to 8.21.
The figure is even higher today. The old yardstick of one man for each mile of track has long since fallen by the wayside.
Table 3 of Mr. Homer's memorandum shows the heavy reduction in the past decade in the number of wooden crossties installed and the tons of rail laid by class I railroads.
Although rail laid in 1966 showed an increase, preliminary 1967 figures indicated a sharp cutback again to 400,000 tons.
The fact that crossties now have a longer life and that heavier rail is being used does not account for the considerable reduction in these operations. Deferred maintenance (or undermaintenance) is the result.
These three tables in themselves raise the question whether the railroads can and are maintaining their tracks and bridges in a safe condition. All evidence points to a negative answer.
It is my opinion that the standards for roadway safety now being maintained by many railroads are marginal and border on the dangerous.
The proposed legislation would give the Department of Transportation the needed authority it does not have at the present time to investigate the condition of railroad tracks and structures from the standpoint of safety.
ADEQUATE FLAGGING PROTECTION FOR EMPLOYEES WORKING UNDER TRAFFIC
The imperative need to furnish protection from moving trains to employees working on tracks and bridges is so obvious as to need little elaboration. Yet in many instances railroads are not furnishing this protection, and where this dangerous deficiency exists there is no corrective action that can be taken by the Department of Transportation.
It can only investigate after an accident occurs, and its recommendations have no authority.
Approaching trains are often obscured by brush or trees along the right-of-way, by curves, by rain, fog, falling or blowing snow, or similar conditions. Men absorbed in their work can become oblivious to outside distractions. The noise they create when they are in operation completely drowns out the whistle or other warning sounds of an approaching train.
In the earlier days of the railroads, the use of a flagman to protect men working under traffic was a universal practice. The advent of mechanization, as I have outlined above, has made it even more necessary that the safety practices be improved and continued. Yet with the passing years this important safety feature has been more evident in the breach than in the observance.
It is true that many carriers still have in their rules and instructions provisions for the assignment of flagmen to be on the lookout for trains. At times it is most difficult, however, if not impossible, to carry out these rules under present-day conditions. The skeletonizing of forces and the modern concept of maintenance operations makes the assignment of a flagman difficult in many instances.
The difficulty becomes an impossibility where the crew has been reduced to the foreman and one, two, or three men, as a flagman is to be placed in both directions. Yet these unprotected small crews are in as much danger while working under traffic as a large crew would be.
As an example of the present situation, in the early part of 1965 three trackmen of the Northern Pacific Railway were killed while working near Longview, Wash., by a freight train backing around a curve.
Reports indicated that they were working on the track with pneumatic tools which apparently prevented them from hearing the train. Obviously, these men were not given the protection that could have prevented this tragedy. The Interstate Commerce Commission inves
tigated the accident, but it had only the authority to announce its findings.
The proposed legislation would give the Department of Transportation the needed authority to take action designed to prevent the recurrence of accidents of this nature on this railroad and other carriers.
A recent development is the attempt of various carriers to use radios as a means of communication. A radio can be a very temperamental and unreliable device, particularly when it is on a moving vehicle, but a leading radio and television company stated in an announcement that "maintenance-of-way crews are warned in advance of oncoming trains from both directions by a new radio control repeater system” which it had developed.
We have strongly protested the use of radios for this purpose, but the Department of Transportation has no authority to act in this area, In a letter dated May 22, 1964, addressed to former Congressman John B. Bennett, Chairman Abe McGregor Goff of the Interstate Commerce Commission said:
While the Interstate Commerce Commission administers a number of laws intended to promote the safety of railroad employes, none of those statutes confers upon the Commission any jurisdiction over operating rules and practices of the carriers.
Accordingly, in the absence of appropriate legislation by the Congress the Commission is without authority to take any action to require the discontinuance of the use of the radio as a means of protection in connection with track construction or maintenance, and to require instead the use of the usual flagging procedures in effect in the railroad industry.
I am unable at this time to express any opinion as to the relative merits of these two methods of protection.
That is the end of Mr. Goff's statement in his letter for former Congressman John Bennett.
What Commissioner Goff said, in effect, is that the railroads are left very much to their own devices, and that under the present law there is no governmental agency empowered to investigate and to take steps to control this unsafe practice.
Where radio is used for communication, there is generally a significant absence of specific carrier rules governing its use. In some instances, every employee who has access to the facilities is left very much on his own as to what use is to be made of them.
Perhaps the most serious defect in the use of radio for warning purposes is illustrated by an accident which occurred January 2, 1964, in the vicinity of Yampai, Ariz., on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway (ICC Railroad Accident Investigation Report No. 4006).
This accident involved a collision between a train and a mechanized maintenance-of-way repair crew, and resulted in the death of four maintenance-of-way employees.
The crew involved consisted of nine men. The equipment in use included an on-track tie-tamping machine weighing about 15,000 pounds and 16 feet 2 inches in length, and an on-track combination power jack and tie-tamping machine weighing about 8,700 pounds and 11 feet 5 inches in length.
Under favorable conditions, equipment of this kind can be placed on or removed from the track in approximately 10 minutes. Under unfavorable conditions, a longer period of time is required. U der rules and regulations of most railroad companies, equipment of this kind is not to be placed on a track in service unless flagging protection is afforded in both directions.