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In the years 1930 to 1934, the carriers averaged 7,556 train accidents per year; in 1935 to 1939, they averaged 7,001 train accidents per year. In 1951 to 1955, they averaged 9,270 train accidents per year; and in 1956, the number rose to 9,447. Thus, the level of accidents in the 1950's was roughly twenty to thirty per cent higher than in the 1930's. Clearly, the new diesel locomotives and the many other alleged improvements in equipment and plant not only failed to make the railroads safer, they led to a sharp increase in accidents.
The reasons for this trend stand out in the comparisons of accidents by cause groupings. These data are in Table 13. Accidents due to maintenance of way defects increased 27 per cent; accidents due to equipment failures increased 10 per cent; and employee error accidents increased almost 46 per cent. (These comparisons are with the averages for the whole decade of the 1930's.) Both in terms of operating and maintenance factors, the railroads' safety performance deteroriated seriously over this period of years.
The monetary costs of accidents jumped four fold over this period. Total damage to railroad equipment and property averaged about ten million dollars per year in the 1930's but exceeded fifty millions in 1956. These statistics are in Table 14.
From 1958 to 1960, the statistics are not comparable with figures before or after that period. Train accidents reported during those years are shown on Table 15. There was an increase in total accidents of 9.7 per cent from 1958 to 1960, with the largest proportionate increase in those caused by maintenance of way defects which rose by 44 per cent in this short period. This was a period in which shocking reductions were made in the Maintenance of Way forces. In 1957 there were 170,766 maintenance of way employees; by 1960, they had declined to 118,597.
It is against that background of the railroads' long-term safety record that the recent accident experience of the industry during the 1960's should be examined in detail.
THE CAUSES OF RAILROAD ACCIDENTS TODAY Official statistics demonstrate that most of the factors causing railroad accidents today are wholly outside the scope of Federal or other governmental authority.
It is quite clear from data presented covering the historical safety trends that among the most important causes of railroad accidents have been defects in roadway and track. Since 1961, there has been a spectacular increase in accidents resulting from this cause. Data showing these facts are shown in Tables 16 and 17. Throughout this period, the employment records show, the railways have operated with drastically reduced maintenance of way forces. From 1961 to 1966, train accidents due to road and track defects more than doubled. In 1961, as shown on Table 16, there were 587 such train accidents; in 1966, there were 1,428. The accident rate from these causes increased from .64 to 1.50 accidents per mililon locomotive and motor train-miles.
Table 17 shows the types of road and track defects that have caused train accidents. Accidents caused by defective cross-ties and tie plates increased from 27 in 1961 to 107 in 1966, 296 per cent. Rail and rail-joint defect accidents rose from 327 to 661 in the same period, an increase of 102 per cent. Accidents due to defective switches and frogs increased from 95 to 270 in the same period, up 184 per cent.
The great number of accidents resulting from these causes is clearly due to undermaintenance-undermaintenance which could have been avoided. Given authority to act with trained inspection staffs to monitor track conditions, Federal government action could correct this condition.
Accidents caused by defective equipment are covered on Tables 18 and 19. Again we see a substantial rise over the period 1961 to 1966, although not quite as great as that caused by road and track defects. The number of accidents rose from 1,474 in 1961 to 1,843 in 1966, 25 per cent. The accident rate increased by 20 per cent. The increase is certainly explained in part by the drop in employment of maintenance of equipment forces.
The principal subcauses of maintenance of equipment defect accidents are shown in Table 19. The greatest contributing cause of accidents are in the group
: The Interstate Commerce Commission made two major changes in its accident rules the first in 1957, the second in 1960, effective in 1961. Since changes were made during the year 1957, igures for that year cannot be compared with those of any period before or afterwards.'
related to defects in wheels, axles and trucks. These are elements over which the Federal regulatory authorities have had no responsibility or control.
A third major group of train accidents have been the result of employee errors. The Interstate Commerce Commission identifies these accidents as having been caused by employee negligence; however, the term is applied to accidents caused by any errors by operating employees not limited to those falling within the legal significance of the term negligence. These accidents also have increasedespecially in the last three years. The application of Arbitration Award 282— the compulsory arbitration proceeding established by Public Law 88-108_reduced the number of firemen and brakemen in service. This employment reduction unquestionably had an effect on accidents related to visibility. Tables 20, 21 and 22 provide data on the extent to which employee error accidents have increased; attention is directed especially to Table 21 which traces the number of collisions for the three years 1961 to 1963, for the parts of the year 1964 before and after Arbitration Award 282, and for 1965 and 1966. The sharp increase in both the number of collisions in the last 8 months of 1964 and throughout the next two years shows clearly the effect of the reduction in firemen and brakemen which resulted from the Arbitration Award. Avoidance of collisions, of course, is a direct function of visibility, and the removal of essential crew members decreased the ability of the remaining members to be sure of the track over which the equipment was moving.
Table 22 shows the main categories of employee error accidents. One of the categories showing the largest increase was that covering operation of hand brakes. The principal element in this group of accidents was that caused by failure to set sufficient hand brakes on standing cuts of cars; this, again, is a condition largely created by too few employees, in this case too few yard brakemen to handle the heavy manual burdens of setting hand brakes.
Railroad spokesmen have acknowledged that there has been a substantial increase in train accidents. They have suggested, however, that this increase is only a reflection of advances in wage and material costs.
The suggestion was that since the standard defining a train accident, $750 of damage to track and equipment, has been fixed throughout this period, increases in costs automatically made some accidents qualify as train accidents that otherwise would not have been reportable. This contention cannot explain the tremendous increase in accidents which has occurred since 1963. Insofar as 1964 is concerned, there were no increases in wage costs which could have affected this situation. Late in that year, agreements were consummated which made retroactive adjustments in pay rates of maintenance classes for that year; however, such adjustments could have had no effect whatever on accidents reported during most of that year. Furthermore, unit wage costs showed no increase in 1964 or 1965. And material prices increased very little from 1961 to 1966. Data showing the trend of material costs and unit wage costs are included in Tables 23 and 24.
Rail-highway grade-crossing accidents cause a large proportion of the fatalities incurred in railroad operations. Like other major groups of accidents, rail-highway accidents increased substantially from 1961 to 1966. The summary data on such accidents are in Tables 25 and 26. Grade-crossing accidents increased from 3,204 in 1961 to 4,117 in 1966, 28.5 per cent. Fatalities from such accidents increased from 1,291 to 1,782, 38 per cent; and total casualties increased from 4,805 to 5,855, 22 per cent. Interstate Commerce Commission data on the causes of rail-highway grade-crossing accidents are not especially informative. They simply indicate whether the automobile, bus, truck, or pedestrian was struck by the locomotive or whether it ran into the side of the locomotive or train. The data give no details on the true causes relating to speeds of operation and timing of signals and warnings that might have prevented the accidents.
The extended investigation conducted by the Interstate Commerce Commission of the grade-crossing problems eventuated in findings attributing the major cause of such accidents to the carelessness of motor vehicle drivers. The Commission's discussion mentioned several factors in railroad operating and maintenance practices that required action. Unfortunately, the Commission could only recommend. It had no power to require compliance with its recommendations. Among the factors discussed were the following:
a. The standardization of grade-crossing protective devices ;
b. The need for adequate, uniform warning time prior to arrival of trains at grade crossings;
c. The need for improved railroad maintenance of way at the crossings.
Assuming the motor vehicle driver negligence to be the primary cause, each of the above three elements could improve his chances of averting the accident. The Commission also noted the need for more informative data on the causes of grade-crossing accidents.
Information on railroad accident experience since the end of 1966 is incomplete. However, summary data available indicate a continuation of the trends we have noted above. A comparison of summary statistics for 1965 and 1966 is made on Table 27. There were approximately one thousand more train accidents in 1966 than in 1965. Preliminary data now available (in Table 28) for 1967 show a further increase of over 300 train accidents above the record 1966 level.
THE HUMAN AND MONETARY COSTS OF RAILROAD ACCIDENTS The cost of railroad accidents, in human lives and in the injuries and mutilations sustained by railroad employees over the years are shocking. Summary statistics for all classes of railroad accidents are shown on Tables 29 and 30. In every year of the six years 1961 through 1966 there were over 28,000 casualties to individuals from railroad accidents; for the six-year period, casualties to all classes of persons totaled 174,289. In every year of that period, there were over 2,000 deaths, and fatalities for the six years totaled 13,880. In 1966, a record 2,684 persons were killed. As has been detailed above, these fatalities far surpass those of other carriers, including air lines and motor carriers.
The trend of non-fatal casualties throughout this period has also been upward until the last two years, 1965 and 1966. We can take little comfort in the recent slight drop in injuries. Injuries to employees declined a little, but this was a direct reflection of drops in employment. An example of this involves casualties to firemen. Although railroad collisions increased following removal of many thousands of firemen from service, casualties in collisions dropped because there was one less employee affected by each accident. It would have been safer for all concerned, however, if the collisions could have been averted completely.
Casualties to passengers also declined; this, of course, is due to the decline in passenger service. If the railroads eventually drop all passenger service, they will have a perfect safety record in this department.
Data on employee casualties can be shown on an individual classification basis, and such statistics have been included in Table 31, attached. The operating employees have the greatest accident incidence and the highest accident rates. Next most hazardous are the maintenance of way occupations. But all classes of railway employees having any contact whatever with railroad operations are subject to continuing and very serious hazards.
In summary of the casualty statistics, it may be said that the railroads' recent record has been deplorable. At a time when technological developments should have led to continuing improvement in safety experience, the railroads have set new fatality records in their operations. The industry is killing or injuring nearly thirty thousand individuals every year. With the exception of mining, no other industry of comparable size has such a deplorable record. The number killed each year in railroad accidents is greater than the total number of work fatalities in all manufacturing industries combined. Truly, the human costs of railroad accidents are enormous.
Furthermore, accidents cost money. The fatalities and injuries we have discussed are shocking even to those of us who have become accustomed to the callousness of railroad corporation decisionmakers over the years. But this accident record does not even make good business sense. The monetary costs of accidents are unbelievably high. In 1966--in our best but incomplete estimate railroad accidents cost nearly three hundred million dollars.
The cost of damage to equipment, track and roadbed of railroad train accidents over the years 1961 to 1966 is shown in Table 32. These costs have been climbing steadily as the number of train accidents has increased. In 1961, direct train accident costs were only about fifty million dollars; by 1966, they had increased to over ninety-eight million dollars-almost 100 percent. Every major category of train accidents showed a cost increase. The cost of accidents due to employee error jumped 120 percent; the cost of equipment defect accidents rose 52 percent; the cost of maintenance of way defect accidents more than doubled-up 160 percent.
The above costs are quite incomplete. There are many other accident costs. The above figures do not include the cost of clearing wrecks which added twenty
* National Safety Council, Acoldent Facts, 1967, p. 23.'
three million dollars in 1966. They do not include the damage to freight resulting from train accidents which, in 1966, cost over eighteen million dollars; and they do not include the railroads' personal injury costs—which amounted to over 108 million dollars. The total of these items for the year 1966, including damage to equipment and roadbed, clearing wrecks, freight damage, and personal injury charges, was $249,078,523. An additional 47 million dollars is estimated to be the cost of railroad employee man-days of work lost. Table 33 compares this amount with the Interstate Commerce Commission appropriations for railroad safety in the fiscal year ended June 30, 1966, which was only $3,257,650—1.1 per cent of the estimate of railroad accident costs.
SUMMARY In conclusion, we would remind the members of the Committee that the causes of most railroad accidents are not uncorrectable; they all result, in one way or another, from circumstances largely under the control of railroad corporation managements. These corporations could keep their track and equipment in safe condition. They could keep available maintenance forces for that purpose and could employ adequate forces for operating safety. But the balance sheet which dictates the decision to do so or not to do so is in the hands of the financial officials of the companies, and not in those of maintenance and operating officials. Tighter supervision and inspection practices controlled by government authority and implemented by stronger monetary penalties can do a great deal to change the direction of such decisions in the future. The stakes are high in monetary terms, as the figures above demonstrate. But they are immeasurable in terms of human life and suffering.
TABLE 1.-NUMBER OF FREIGHT CARS OWNED, CLASS I RAILROADS, 1930-66
2, 276, 867
39, 872 84,218 63, 748 67,548 28, 405 35,738 59, 768 88, 482 39, 278 41,413 47, 169 25,633 29, 287 33, 770 65, 801
1940. 1941. 1942. 1943. 1944.
65, 350 1960. 78, 302 1961. 62, 578 1962 28,704 1963 39, 960 | 1964
1945. 1946. 1947. 1948. 1949.
1 Not available.