Railroad Safety:

FRA Needs to Correct Deficiencies in Reporting Injuries and Accidents

RCED-89-109: Published: Apr 5, 1989. Publicly Released: May 1, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed: (1) the reliability and accuracy of injury and accident data railroads reported to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA); and (2) FRA efforts to ensure data accuracy.

GAO found that: (1) although FRA relies on injury and accident reports as a basis for conducting its railroad safety program, it does not require railroads to have internal controls for reporting; (2) the five railroads GAO visited were either underreporting the number of injuries and accidents, understating the number of lost workdays and the estimated cost of damages due to train accidents, or not maintaining sufficient information for GAO to determine reporting accuracy; (3) the railroads' inaccurate reporting generally occurred because they did not collect the most current data available before reporting to FRA; (4) FRA inspectors focused their efforts on detecting individual reporting errors, rather than on railroad reporting procedures; and (5) inspectors did not have the authority to cite railroads for internal control weaknesses.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FRA held a public hearing on May 18, 1990, concerning railroad reporting requirements. FRA is in the process of finalizing a rule to implement the provision under the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 1988, allowing employee supplements to railroad accident reports as a way for employees to list reasons why an accident/injury occurred.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FRA, to require railroads to update reports on workdays lost due to injuries.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FRA has sent letters to all railroads asking them to review their reporting procedures for reporting accidents and injuries.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FRA, to provide inspectors with the authority to take enforcement actions against railroads with deficient internal control procedures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FRA held a hearing with carriers on May 17, 1990, on ways to improve the accuracy of FRA accident and injury reporting systems.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FRA, to include an analysis of railroads' internal control procedures for reporting in FRA safety record inspections.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FRA inspectors are now required to spend 10 percent more time reviewing railroad accident reporting records in the course of normal inspection and assessment activity. The inspectors are taking more action against violators.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FRA, to require railroads to establish injury and accident reporting internal control procedures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On March 6, 1990, FRA issued an ANPRM regarding methods of improving the FRA injury and accident reporting system. A public hearing was held on May 17, 1990.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FRA, to clarify the FRA requirement for railroads to update accident reports when significant changes occur.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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