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The CHAIRMAN. That is part of the record. That is right. This is the whole picture which should be taken under consideration.
The committee stands adjourned until tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock.
(Whereupon, at 12:20 p.m., the committee adjourned, to reconvene at 9 a.m., Wednesday, June 5, 1968.)
FEDERAL STANDARDS FOR RAILROAD SAFETY
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 5, 1968
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The committee met at 9 a.m., pursuant to notice, in room 2123, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Harley O. Staggers (chairman) presiding.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee will come to order.
I am sure that we meet here in sorrow this morning and most of us have certain emotions about the tragedy that occurred last night. We do not know the consequences on that tragedy as yet. It is certainly a sad commentary on the state of affairs in America today that this has happened, but it has happened.
I first thought about calling off this meeting but I don't know that that would serve the purpose of this land in any way. So, we decided to go ahead with the hearings and do our job to the best of our ability. I think that is what all Americans should do under the circumstances.
So, we are going to continue these hearings and, as I said yesterday, we will complete them today in one way or another even though we meet tonight. We hope to give everybody the time that is needed and we will do just that.
We will start with you, Mr. O'Connell, as our first witness. Mr. O'Connell is Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, Department of Transportation.
You may proceed.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOSEPH J. O'CONNELL, JR., CHAIRMAN, NA
TIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION; ACCOMPANIED BY FRITZ PULS, GENERAL COUNSEL; AND HENRY H. WAKELAND, DIRECTOR, BUREAU OF SURFACE TRANSPORTATION SAFETY
Mr. O'CONNELL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to say, first, I am accompanied by Mr. Puls, our General Counsel, and Mr. Wakeland, the Director of our Bureau of Surface Transportation Safety. They are here to answer any questions that the committee may wish to pose.
I have a statement for the committee, I will read.
Mr. O'CONNELL. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee: The Board was created by the Department of Transportation Act of 1966 and, as you know, while within the Department, is independent of the Department in the performance of its duties and functions.
In briefly describing the functions of the Board, I will limit my remarks to railroad safety.
The Accident Reports Act (45 U.S.C. 39)provides for the investigation of railroad accidents, the determination of their cause and the issuance of reports. The responsibility for field investigations was transferred by the Department of Transportation Act to the Secretary and by delegation to the Federal Railroad Administration.
Under section 5(b)(1) of the Department of Transportation Act, we are charged with the responsibility to determine cause and report the facts, conditions, and circumstances relating to railroad accidents presently being investigated under the Accident Reports Act.
In implementing this authority, although it may also conduct railroad investigations, the Board has sought to devote the major portion of its activities to determining cause and reporting major accidents in the railroad field. We have sought to limit our conduct of field investigations and to rely upon the investigations of the Federal Railway Administration.
In essence, selectivity has been the key to our efforts. Accordingly, we leave the actual field investigations to the Federal Railway Administration. With our limited staff, we have no alternative but to be selective and thorough.
In those cases reviewed, we attempted to seek out and recommend to the Department and the industry courses of action that will prevent the recurrence of such accidents in the future.
In addition, under section 5(d) of the act, we are authorized to make recommendations to the Secretary or Administrators on the basis of the exercise of our functions, which will tend to prevent transportation accidents; to conduct special studies pertinent to safety in transportation; to insure that reports adequately state the circumstances of the accidents and recommendations to the Secretary or administrators concerning rules and procedures for the conduct of such investigations; arranging for our participation in such investigations; request the Secretary or his administrators for notification of accidents; request the Secretary and administrators to initiate special investigations; and we may initiate, on our own motion, investigations of railroad accidents.
During our first year of operation, the National Transportation Safety Board has devoted its energies to a continuous oversight of the safety picture in all modes of transportation-air, marine, highway, pipeline, and railroad. We have undertaken the detailed evaluation of a few individual accidents, on which we have issued reports, determined cause, and made recommendations to the Department of Transportation, other Federal, State and local agencies, and to the transportation industry.
We also have undertaken special studies of safety in the different modes—looking for general lessons to be learned which will help to prevent future accidents.
We have issued three major reports of railroad accidents-one involving a head-on collision of two freight trains, the other two were railroad grade crossing accidents.
The first report was of a tragic railroad-highway grade crossing accident at Sacramento, Calif. We examined the evidence and urged the Department, as well as the industry, States and local jurisdictions,
to study the type of crossings we termed "booby traps”; improvement of crossing signals and a study of the financing problems for eliminating some crossings and for the provision of better protection at others.
On January 26, 1968, we issued a report on a fatal head-on collision, of two New York Central railroad freight trains, which occurred in New York City. We identified numerous inadequacies in the operating practices and rules and personnel training of the railroad; urged the need for the industry to reassess its safety practices, and recommended to the Department that, lacking evidence of improvement, they give consideration to the safety problems posed by this accident in considering the need for legislation.
On March 7, 1968, we issued a third report on a grade crossing accident between a commuter train and a fuel tank truck at Everett, Mass. Eleven passengers and two trainmen died in this accident because of their inability to evacuate a car which had become engulfed in flames following the collision.
In this case, we recommended to the Department that it give immediate attention to seeking legislation to authorize the Department to prescribe standards requiring emergency means of evacuation of such cars and to require the provision of emergency lighting.
Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board also conducted a general review of railroad accident data covering the last several years for train accidents, which has shown a progressively worsening trend in rates, occurrences, deaths, and damage.
Especially disturbing was the fact that many train accidents in recent years have involved hazardous or poisonous materials, resulting in fires, or the escape of poisonous or hazardous materials followed by evacuation of populated areas. The latter collateral factors, coupled with a rising accident rate, increase the probability of catastrophic occurrences. We indicated our concern to the Department in my
letter of April 3, 1968.
In my letter, we noted that total train accidents, excluding train service and nontrain accidents, increased from 4,149 in 1961 to 6,793 in 1966, up 63.7 percent, and according to preliminary figures increased to 7,089 in 1967, up 71 percent over 1961.
Train accidents per million train-miles increased from 7.09 in 1961 to 11.29 in 1966, up 59.2 percent.
Deaths in train accidents increased from 158 to 214, or by 35.4 percent.
Reported loss and damage to lading in train accidents (which excludes rough handling) increased from $9.3 million to $18.6 million during the 1961-66 period, or up 100 percent; such loss and damage was up from $15,800 to $30,900 per million train-miles, or up 95.5 percent.
Track and equipment damage reported in train accidents increased from $50.4 million to $99.0 million, up almost 100 percent; such track and equipment damage was up from $86,200 to $164,500 per million train-miles, or up 90 percent.
Derailments, the single most important cause of train accidents, increased from 2,671 in 1961 to 4,447 in 1966, up 66.5 percent, and the rate of derailments per million train-miles increased from 4.57 in 1961 to 7.39 in 1966, up 61.7 percent.
Derailments, as the largest single cause of the 6,793 train accidents in 1966, accounted for 4,447 or about 65 percent of all train accidents in 1966, and over 80 percent of the damage to track and equipment.
Collisions, the next most frequent cause, accounted for 1,552 or 23 percent of the 1966 train accidents.
The Interstate Commerce Commission's "Accident Bulletin", now under the jurisdiction of the Federal Railroad Administration, reflects in detail, the primary causes of derailments, comparing 1961 with 1966. Defects in or improper maintenance of way and structures accounted for 21.6 percent of all derailments in 1961 and this increased to 31.2 percent in 1966.
Further, both in numbers and in proportion of total derailments, those caused by defects in or improper maintenance of way and structures have become an increasingly significant factor in derailments, increasing by 140 percent and by 44.5 percent, respectively,
Defects in or failure of equipment, on the other hand, though still the largest group of causes of derailments, had declined as a proportion of derailment causes from 47.5 percent in 1961 to 34.9 percent in 1966.
Derailments charged to negligence of employees accounted for 12.3 percent of all derailments in 1961 and 12.4 percent in 1966, almost the same proportion, although the number of derailments caused by employee negligence increased by 68.1 percent.
Statistics as to derailments resulting from defects in or improper maintenance of way and structures, which resulted in train accidents, clearly show how progressively deteriorating track conditions are causing derailments.
The safety record of railroads is an operating result depending upon management efforts, and train accidents are the class of accidents most completely amenable to management decisions. The trend of results in train accidents which was analyzed by the Safety Board has been available for anyone to see in the "Accident Bulletins" of the Interstate Commerce Commission. The losses involved have been very costly to the railroads and others, but the problem has not been brought adequately to public attention.
These results indicate that railroad safety is not under effective management control. Because of this lack of control, we do not know what the future holds. The apparent risks to bystanders from hazardous materials carried by rail will be increasing. Speeds and train lengths are also increasing, and this means longer stopping distances .for trains. High-speed passenger trains are in the near future.
The Safety Board has found certain specific safety problems on railroads even in the short time the Board has been studying and reporting railroad accidents. Some of these problems indicate the type of regulatory action or research and development effort needed to improve rail safety.
In the area of railroad operation and training, one accident we received showed two operators and a dispatcher incompletely trained and even unaware of some of their duties and relationship to authority. The rules examination process of the railroad was a kind of class discussion which did not effectively insure that those who attended knew the rules.
This problem could be handled by requiring personnel to periodically pass examinations on the rules.