oil-train-rail A 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.

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.”

NTSB_logo WASHINGTON – Transportation fatalities in the United States decreased by 3 percent in 2013 from 2012, according to preliminary figures released today by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Fatalities in all modes of transportation totaled 34,678 in 2013, compared with 35,796 in 2012. Deaths in marine, aviation, highway and pipeline transportation decreased, although there was a rise in rail deaths.

“While this decrease represents a good trend, much more work needs to done, because 35,000 deaths is very troubling,” said NTSB Acting Chairman Hart. “NTSB continues to address safety issues in all modes to reduce deaths and injuries on our roads, rails and waterways, as well as in our skies.”

The 2013 statistics show:

  • U.S. roadway deaths, which account for nearly 94 percent of all transportation deaths, decreased from 33,782 in 2012 to 32,719 in 2013. Fatalities on buses were up from 39 in 2012 to 48 in 2013.
  • Railroad deaths increased 6 percent from 840 to 891. The vast majority of these fatalities continue to be trespassers struck by trains.
  • Aviation deaths decreased from 451 to 443. Nearly 87 percent of aviation fatalities occurred in general aviation accidents (387), a decrease from the previous year (440). In 2013, air taxi fatalities increased significantly from nine in 2012 to 27.
  • Marine deaths also dropped in 2013, from 711 to 615. The vast majority of the fatalities, (560), occurred in recreational boating which also decreased.

Aviation statistics are tracked and compiled by the NTSB. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security provides marine statistics, and the U.S. Department of Transportation provides statistics for all other modes.?

Statistical Tables 

2012–2013 U.S. Transportation Fatalities
2013 (footnote1)
Passenger cars
Light trucks and vans
Pedalcycles (footnote 2)
Medium and heavy trucks
Other (footnote 3)
Total, Highway
Grade Crossings: (footnote 4)
Intercity (footnote 5) —
   Trespassers and nontrespassers
   (footnote 6)
   Employees and contractors
Transit (footnote 7)—
Light, heavy, and commuter rail
Total, Rail
Recreational boating
Cargo transport
Commercial fishing (footnote 8)
Commercial passengers
Total, Marine
General aviation
Air taxi
Foreign/unregistered (footnote 9)
Total, Aviation
Total, Pipeline
1 Numbers for 2013 are preliminary estimates. Aviation data are from the NTSB; marine data are from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; all other data are from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
2 Includes bicycles or other cycles.
3 Includes vehicle non-occupants other than pedestrians and occupant fatalities in other vehicle types, such as farm or construction equipment.
4 Grade crossing fatalities are not counted as a separate category for determining the grand total because they are included in the highway and rail categories, as appropriate.
5 Data reported to Federal Rail Administration (FRA).
6 Includes persons on railroad property without permission (trespassers) and with permission, such as repair personnel (nontrespassers). Does not include motor vehicle occupants killed at grade crossings.
7 Data reported to Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Fatalities for commuter rail operations may also be reported to the FRA and may be included in the intercity railroad fatalities.
8 Refers to operational fatalities.
9 Includes non-U.S. registered aircraft involved in accidents in the United States.

NTSB_logo The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday issued its annual tally of Most Wanted Transportation Safety Improvements, adding to the list for the first time the issue of the safety of railroad tank cars carrying crude oil and ethanol.

The safety board also urged the railroad industry to adopt a technology known as “Positive Train Control” (PTC) by the end of this year.

Read the complete story at Roll Call.

NTSB_logo WASHINGTON – The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday added railroad tank car improvements to its list of “Most Wanted” safety improvements, reflecting a heightened awareness about problems in transporting crude oil and ethanol by rail.

It was the first time the issue has appeared on the board’s annual list of safety priorities since it issued the first one in 1990. The board also renewed its call for railroads to install Positive Train Control, a collision-avoidance system, by the end of the year.

Read the complete story at McClatchy Washington Bureau.

NTSB_logo WASHINGTON– The National Transportation Safety Board issued a Safety Alert that focuses on the visibility of railroad signals.

On railroads, light-emitting diode (LED) railroad signals may mask nearby incandescent signals, preventing incandescent signals from being visible to train crews. If LED and incandescent signals are installed in close proximity to one another, the LED signal may appear brighter or closer, causing crews to confuse the sequence of the signals as they approach. This effect may be more pronounced the closer the train gets to the signals.

A Safety Alert is a brief information sheet that pinpoints a particular safety hazard and offers practical remedies to address the issue. This Alert highlights actions to avoid accidents by identifying locations where the close spacing of signals may cause a signal to either mask or visually dominate another signal, especially at locations where LED and incandescent light units have been installed in close proximity. These actions include evaluating the railroad computer aided dispatching software to prevent confusion when lining routes non-sequentially at multiple control points; conducting a hazard analysis that includes testing signal visibility with input from train crews; and through the use of configuration management.

The Safety Alert is available http://www.ntsb.gov/safety/safety-alerts/Documents/SA_038.pdf.

All 35 Safety Alerts the NTSB has issued are available at: http://www.ntsb.gov/safety/safety-alerts/Pages/default.aspx.

bus2 Two young girls and one female adult aide were killed and 27 others were injured Tuesday after two Knox County school buses collided on Asheville Highway in East Knoxville.

The wreck, which flipped one bus onto its side, happened near Governor John Sevier Highway just before 3 p.m.

Read the complete story at Television Station WBIR.

NTSB_logo Federal regulators who concluded that an engineer’s sleep apnea caused a deadly train derailment in New York adopted several recommendations Wednesday for better screening of such disorders, including a call for improved physician training.

The National Transportation Safety Board, meeting in Washington, approved all the conclusions and recommendations in a staff report that examined five Metro-North Railroad accidents in New York and Connecticut in 2013 and 2014.

Read the complete story at Television Station WTNH.

Three senators and a top federal safety official delivered a blistering critique on Tuesday of the Metro-North Railroad and regulators in Washington for lapses in maintenance and oversight that led to five accidents that killed six people in less than a year.

Led by Christopher A. Hart, the acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, the group discussed findings on the probable causes of the accidents, including a derailment that left four commuters dead in the Bronx in December. In that crash, an engineer had dozed off, causing his train to career into a sharp curve at over 80 miles per hour, the safety board said.

Read the complete story at The New York Times.

NTSB_logo Railroad and rail transit roadway workers are subject to on-the-job risks and hazards markedly different from those faced by other railroad employees. The jobs of railroad engineers and conductors include risks primarily related to moving trains – derailments, collisions with other trains; the jobs of roadway workers involve hazards that include moving rolling stock and other equipment and vehicles, as well as falls, electrocution, and natural hazards.

During 2013, 11 railroad roadway workers died while doing their jobs, which is nearly 80 percent of the total number of railroad employees who died in 2013 (14). This represents the largest number of railroad roadway workers killed while on duty in 1 year since 1995, when 12 died. Also in 2013, four rail transit roadway workers died.

The types of accidents in which roadway workers lost their lives in 2013 included falls from bridges, incidents involving bucket lifts, and a mudslide, as well as strikes by moving equipment. The number of roadway worker deaths in 2013, the findings from investigations of those deaths, and the increasing number of these fatalities prompted the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to initiate a special investigation to identify safety issues facing roadway workers and to recommend actions to address these issues.

The NTSB examined the roadway worker fatalities reported for 2013. For some accidents, the NTSB performed limited investigations either on scene or through reviews of the accident records. For other accidents, the NTSB used information prepared by other investigative agencies, including the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as well as railroads and rail transit agencies.

The purpose of these NTSB examinations was to identify the circumstances in which the accidents occurred and to discover any deficiencies or limitations – in operating procedures and regulations or adherence to those procedures and regulations – that suggested causes and remedies.

Of the roadway worker fatalities in 2013, 11 resulted from 11 accidents on railroads regulated by the FRA, and four resulted from three accidents on rail transit properties with FTA oversight. Because roadway worker fatalities have been increasing over the past four years, careful examination of the causes of these recent fatal accidents is warranted.

To view the NTSB’s Special Investigation Report, click here.