In response to a National Transportation Safety Board recommendation, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued Safety Advisory 2013–04. Its purpose is to reemphasize the importance of clear and precise railroad procedures to ensure the safety of the traveling public and railroad employees when highway-rail grade crossing warning systems and wayside signal systems are temporarily removed from service for purposes of testing, inspection, maintenance, or repair. The FRA previously made related recommendations to railroads regarding the importance of clear safety procedures to ensure the safety of highway-rail grade crossing warning systems and wayside signal systems in Safety Advisory 2002–01.
Over the past year, two serious incidents have resulted from the failure of railroad personnel to follow appropriate safety procedures when removing grade crossing warning devices and wayside signal systems from service for repair. A brief review of these incidents may help illustrate the critical importance of railroads having clear and precise safety procedures in place when testing, inspecting, maintaining, or repairing highway-rail grade crossing warning systems and wayside signal systems. It is our responsibility as Signalmen to ensure these procedures are followed.
One incident involved a fatal collision between a southbound passenger train and an automobile that was eastbound at a highway-rail grade crossing. The warning system had been removed from service and did not activate as the train approached the crossing. The train was equipped with a forward-facing video camera that recorded (1) that the gate arms were in the upright position, and (2) that the grade crossing warning lights were deactivated as the train traveled through the highway-rail grade crossing and struck the automobile. The automobile driver was fatally injured as a result of the collision.
The second incident involved the derailment of a passenger train that had entered a yard track from the main track. Locomotive video- and event recorder data show that the passenger train was proceeding on a clear signal through a power-operated switch that had been aligned in the reverse position toward the yard. After traveling at a speed of 61 mph through a turnout that was limited to 15 mph for movement onto a 5 mph yard track, the passenger train derailed about 254 feet beyond the power-operated switch. Four cars and two locomotives derailed upright and emergency responders reported that 14 persons were injured, 8 of whom were transported to area hospitals.
Federal Railroad Administration Safety Advisory 2013–04