Posts Tagged ‘National Transportation Safety Board’

“60 Minutes” segment details fatal 2018 Cayce, S.C., accident

One of two crew members of the CSX freight train that was struck by the Amtrak Silver Star on Feb. 4, 2018, recounted the accident in a segment for CBS’s “60 Minutes” program that was broadcast Sunday night.

SMART Transportation Division Local 30 member Michael Cella, 36, the conductor on the Amtrak train, and engineer Michael Kempf, a former TD member, were killed in the accident near Cayce, S.C., that also injured 100 passengers.

While the accident investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has not been finalized, a misaligned switch has been widely reported as the cause of the collision, which occurred in dark territory.

Engineer Mark James told “60 Minutes” that he has experienced PTSD ever since the accident.

“This is something I’ll never, ever get over,” he told correspondent Lesley Stahl.

The segment also detailed features of Positive Train Control (PTC) technology. Stahl was shown how PTC operates by a Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) employee.

NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt, also interviewed in the segment, criticized the Federal Railroad Administration and industry for the slow implementation of PTC.

“The regulator needs to step up to the plate and do their job and regulate,” he said.

The entire segment is viewable via this link.

Trump administration renominates candidates to transportation positions

A number of candidates to transportation-related oversight posts in the federal government whose nominations were returned to President Donald Trump in early January have been renominated to those posts.

Thelma Drake has been renominated to be the administrator of the DOT’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Lynn Westmoreland, Joseph Gruters and Rick Dearborn are again under consideration for positions on the Amtrak board of directors.

SMART Transportation Division opposes the nomination of Westmoreland, whose voting record as a U.S. representative shows he has a long history of voting against Amtrak funding.

“As a longtime member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, Westmoreland has a hostile voting record against Amtrak, which includes efforts to eliminate federal funding for Amtrak entirely. In addition, Westmoreland has been an original cosponsor of the ‘National Right-to-Work Act’ on multiple occasions, which would significantly weaken our ability to collectively bargain. For these reasons, we oppose his nomination as it would undermine the core mission of Amtrak and its employees,” we reported when his nomination was initially introduced in October 2017.

Also renominated by the president are Michelle Schultz to the Surface Transportation Board (STB), and Michael Graham and Jennifer Homendy to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Homendy is currently serving a term on the board that runs out at the end of 2019.

Two nominations also were made to highway oversight positions — Heidi King to administer the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Nicole Nason to administer the Federal Highway Administration (FHA).

These nominations will be considered by U.S. Senate subcommittees before potential advancement for consideration by the full Senate.

Senate confirms two to NTSB

The U.S. Senate confirmed two members to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on July 24.

General aviation safety advocate Bruce Landsberg was confirmed as vice-chairman of the NTSB and transportation veteran Jennifer Homendy was confirmed to fill an empty board seat.

Homendy was nominated to the position in April and will fill a term lasting until Dec. 31, 2019, that was vacated by Mark Rosekind. She has served as Democratic staff director for the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s railroad, pipelines and hazardous materials subcommittee since 2004.

Prior to that, Homendy was a legislative representative for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and has worked for the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) , AFL-CIO, the American Iron and Steel Institute, and the National Federation of Independent Business.

“She will bring to her new role a deep understanding of the needs, responsibilities, and obstacles faced by America’s frontline transportation workforce,” said Larry I. Willis, president of the TTD. “On behalf of our 32 affiliated unions, I offer our collective congratulations to Jennifer for this important achievement in her career, and look forward to continuing our work together to enhance transportation safety.”

Landsberg held leadership roles in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Foundation and Air Safety Institute for 22 years before his retirement from the organization in 2014. He has frequently worked with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other regulatory agencies, and industry groups such as the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA).

Landsberg was nominated to serve as NTSB vice chair in September 2017 and is slated to serve a two-year term as NTSB vice chairman, with his term as a board member extending through Dec. 31, 2022.

Investigators release records of Casselton derailment

oil-train-railFederal investigators have released hundreds of pages of records that offer new insight into the moments just before and after a 2013 oil train derailment near Casselton, North Dakota, that created a massive fire and forced 1,400 people to evacuate for several days.

Interviews with the BNSF Railway workers operating the two trains in the derailment are included in documents the National Transportation Safety Board posted online Monday. Federal investigators also said in the documents that a broken train axle found after the derailment might have been prevented if BNSF railroad had inspected it more carefully and found a pre-existing flaw.

Read the complete story at the Houston Chronicle.

NTSB issues urgent call for improved rail tank cars

The National Transportation Safety Board April 6 issued four urgent recommendations calling for more robust and fire-resistant rail cars to be produced to safely carry flammable liquids such as crude oil and ethanol.

In its recommendations, the Board calls for an aggressive schedule of replacing or retrofitting the current rail car fleet with better thermal protection against heat from fires, such as through a ceramic thermal blanket, and increasing the capacity of pressure relief devices.

“We can’t wait a decade for safer rail cars,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart. “Crude oil rail traffic is increasing exponentially. That is why this issue is on our Most Wanted List of Safety Improvements. The industry needs to make this issue a priority and expedite the safety enhancements, otherwise, we continue to put our communities at risk.”

The Board said the current fleet of DOT-111 tank cars rupture too quickly when exposed to a pool fire caused by a derailment or other accident with resulting spillage and ignition. And based on a series of accidents the Board has investigated in recent months, performance of the industry’s enhanced rail car, the CPC-1232, is not satisfactory under these conditions.

“The NTSB concludes that the thermal performance and pressure relief capacity of bare steel tank cars that conform to current federal and industry requirements is insufficient to prevent tank failures from pool fire thermal exposure and the resulting overpressurization,” said the letter that included the recommendations from the Board to Acting Administrator Timothy P. Butters of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The Board also called for swiftness in changing the fleet and called for intermediate deadlines and transparent reporting to ensure the tank car fleet is being upgraded as quickly as possible.

To view the recommendation, click on the following link: http://www.ntsb.gov/safety/safety-recs/recletters/R-15-014-017.pdf.

 

NTSB issues urgent call for improved rail tank cars

?NTSB_logoThe National Transportation Safety Board April 6 issued four urgent recommendations calling for more robust and fire-resistant rail cars to be produced to safely carry flammable liquids such as crude oil and ethanol.

In its recommendations, the Board calls for an aggressive schedule of replacing or retrofitting the current rail car fleet with better thermal protection against heat from fires, such as through a ceramic thermal blanket, and increasing the capacity of pressure relief devices.

“We can’t wait a decade for safer rail cars,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart. “Crude oil rail traffic is increasing exponentially. That is why this issue is on our Most Wanted List of Safety Improvements. The industry needs to make this issue a priority and expedite the safety enhancements, otherwise, we continue to put our communities at risk.”

The Board said the current fleet of DOT-111 tank cars rupture too quickly when exposed to a pool fire caused by a derailment or other accident with resulting spillage and ignition. And based on a series of accidents the Board has investigated in recent months, performance of the industry’s enhanced rail car, the CPC-1232, is not satisfactory under these conditions.

“The NTSB concludes that the thermal performance and pressure relief capacity of bare steel tank cars that conform to current federal and industry requirements is insufficient to prevent tank failures from pool fire thermal exposure and the resulting overpressurization,” said the letter that included the recommendations from the Board to Acting Administrator Timothy P. Butters of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The Board also called for swiftness in changing the fleet and called for intermediate deadlines and transparent reporting to ensure the tank car fleet is being upgraded as quickly as possible.

To view the recommendation, click on the following link: http://www.ntsb.gov/safety/safety-recs/recletters/R-15-014-017.pdf.

Christopher Hart takes the helm at NTSB

NTSB_Christopher_A._Hart_web

Hart

WASHINGTON – Christopher A. Hart was sworn as the 13th chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board March 17 during a ceremony presided over by Chief Administrative Law Judge Alfonso Montano.

President Barack Obama nominated Hart to serve as chairman in January 2015, and the U.S. Senate confirmed him on March 12, 2015. He has been serving as acting chairman since April 26, 2014.

Prior to stepping into the role of acting chairman, Hart had served as vice chairman and a member of the board since 2009. He also served as a member of the board from 1990 to 1993.

“I am very grateful for this opportunity to lead this dynamic agency that is dedicated to improving transportation safety,” said Hart. “I have been involved in transportation safety for more than 30 years, and the NTSB truly sets the bar higher for continued safety improvement.”

Hart is an aerospace engineer, attorney, and licensed pilot with commercial, multi-engine and instrument ratings. His family has a tradition of accomplishment in the field of transportation. In 1926, his great uncle, James Herman Banning, was the first African-American to receive a pilot’s license issued by the U.S. Government.

After serving as a member of the board from 1990-1993, Hart served as deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, before moving to the Federal Aviation Administration in 1995. He served as the FAA assistant administrator for System Safety and then became deputy director for Air Traffic Safety Oversight before returning to the board in 2009.

Hart holds a law degree from Harvard Law School and Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University. He is a member of the District of Columbia Bar and the Lawyer-Pilots Bar Association.

NTSB to hold forum on railroad trespassing

NTSB_logoWASHINGTON – The National Transportation Safety Board will hold a public forum March 24-25 on the dangers of trespassing on the railroad right-of-way.

While railroad tracks have long held a cultural resonance with Americans, featured in motion pictures, TV shows, music videos and photography, they are private property. And they can be a deadly place. In 2013, 476 people were killed and 432 were injured in trespassing accidents, according to preliminary data from the Federal Railroad Administration.

The forum, Trains and Trespassing: Ending Tragic Encounters, will be chaired by NTSB Board Member Robert L. Sumwalt. It will feature speakers who have been seriously injured by trains; those whose communities have been affected; and railroad employee assistance program employees whose train crews have struck people on railroad property. The forum will draw on the expertise of railroads, regulators, and researchers, among others, to review the diversity of trespassing accidents and incidents and look at current and future prevention strategies.

The forum will be held at the NTSB’s Board Room and Conference Center, located at 429 L’Enfant Plaza, S.W., Washington, D.C. However, on March 25, the forum will include a tour of Norfolk Southern’s safety train at Union Station.

More information about the forum can be found here: http://www.ntsb.gov/trespassing.

The public can view the forum in person or by live webcast on the NTSB’s website. As soon as they are available, an agenda and webcast details will be posted.

 

Dangerous trains, aging rails

A CSX freight train ran off the rails last month in rural Mount Carbon, W.Va. One after another, exploding rail cars sent hellish fireballs hundreds of feet into the clear winter sky. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency, and the fires burned for several days.

The Feb. 16 accident was one of a series of recent fiery derailments highlighting the danger of using freight trains to ship crude oil from wellheads in North Dakota to refineries in congested regions along America’s coastlines. The most recent was last week, when a Burlington Northern Santa Fe oil train with roughly 100 cars derailed, causing at least two cars, each with about 30,000 gallons of crude oil, to explode, burn and leak near the Mississippi River, south of Galena, Ill.

Read the complete story at The New York Times.

NTSB seeking candidate for rail accident investigator

NTSB_logoThe National Transportation Safety Board is seeking a qualified candidate to serve as a railroad accident investigator and would like to hear from interested SMART Transportation Division members with expertise in railroad operations, railroad accident investigations and railroad safety.

This position is located in the Railroad Division, Office of Railroad, Pipeline, and Hazardous Materials Investigations (RPH), National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and the candidate will serve as an investigator-in-charge.

The individual will be responsible for organizing, managing and coordinating the investigation of major railroad transportation accidents and developing and presenting reports with safety recommendations for adoption by the board, Railroad Division Chief Georgetta Gregory reports.

Complete details regarding the position, including salary, benefits, duties and required qualifications can be found at www.usajobs.gov by entering job announcement number RPH-1328401-MIB in the Advanced Search box.

Applications will be accepted through March 10, 2015.

 

Who’s to blame for the exploding oil trains?

oil-train-railA week after a CSX train hauling crude oil derailed and exploded 30 miles southeast of Charleston, W. Va., on Feb. 16, its mangled, charred tank cars were still being hauled from the crash site. Of the 27 cars that derailed, 19 had been engulfed in flames.

The wreckage burned for almost three days. “It’s amazing no one was killed,” says John Whitt, whose home is one of a handful clustered near the crash site, along the banks of the Kanawha River. Some were within 30 yards of the site. One home was destroyed.

Raed the complete story at Bloomberg News.

Safety Team member assisting NTSB in Calif.

The SMART Transportation Division’s National Safety Team has assigned one of its members to assist the National Transportation Safety Board in its investigation of the crash and derailment of a Metrolink commuter train in Ventura County in California Feb. 24.

Twenty-eight people were injured, four of them critically, when the five-car Metrolink commuter train traveling from Ventura County to Los Angeles struck a truck on the tracks and derailed.

Safety Team Investigator Louis Costa of Local 1241 at Richmond, Calif., will assist the NTSB in determining the facts of the accident.

Safety Team members are selected by the SMART Transportation Division president based upon their knowledge of operating rules and understanding of general railroad operations, train movements and dispatching. When a major rail accident occurs, the NST coordinator immediately assigns one or more NST members to assist in the investigation.

The NTSB has sent a go-team to investigate yesterday’s accident in Oxnard, Calif. Robert Accetta is leading the team as investigator-in-charge. NTSB Board Member Robert L. Sumwalt is accompanying the team and will serve as the principal spokesman during the on-scene phase of the investigation.

A Federal Railroad Administration spokesperson said, “Federal Railroad Administration investigators are en route to the scene, and they will conduct a thorough investigation to determine the factors that contributed to this accident. Safety must be every railroad’s absolute top priority. We will establish what lapses, if any, occurred and order any necessary corrective actions.”