State inspectors help FRA improve rail safety
At FRA, we’re always looking for opportunities to drive continuous safety improvement, but we can’t do it alone. Thanks to the State Rail Safety Participation Program, we don’t have to. This program allows us to supplement our federal inspectors with state inspectors, adding more manpower to help extend our oversight and inspection efforts.
Created in the Federal Rail Safety Act of 1970, the program is 44 years old this year, and we’ve seen impressive growth since its beginnings. The program provides states an excellent opportunity to participate in rail safety, and that's especially valuable now when we’re experiencing significant growth in transporting products such as crude oil by rail.
Recently, for example, a state inspector served as the team lead on a comprehensive FRA/state audit of a major tank car fleet management company. The audit identified and corrected critical flaws in procedures for maintenance facilities to qualify tank cars for service.
Additionally, like their FRA counterparts, state inspectors do more than conduct regular compliance inspections, they also provide essential assistance to accident investigations. A good example of state contributions to this important responsibility occurred just last year, following a train-to-train collision that also caused a highway bridge to collapse. The FRA and the National Transportation Safety Board, along with local emergency response agencies, all recognized the state inspectors for their valuable help at the time.
Today, thirty states participate in the program, with the largest state participation in California, Texas, New York, and Ohio. With 179 state inspectors nationwide, participating states provide 36% of our total inspection staff.
FRA supports them with training, computers, and other equipment to do their job, so this is truly a partnership.
I’m also encouraged by several states’ recent interest. I believe the program has the potential to grow significantly in the near future and extend our ability to pursue FRA’s highest priority --safety.
As the examples above illustrate, state inspectors are helping to improve rail safety in their states, and we value their contribution to improving rail safety nationally for railroad employees and the public. I believe state inspectors can be a key partner in driving the next generation of rail safety through our three pillars:
- Continuing a rigorous oversight and inspection program based on strategic use of data
- Advancing proactive approaches for early identification and mitigation of risk
- Capital investments and robust research and development program