Good news: Railroad operations could soon become a lot safer – if a recommendation recently made by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is followed.
In the wake of a September Amtrak derailment in Montana that killed three people and injured dozens more, the NTSB recently called on both the Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak to use positive train control technology (PTCT) instead of lookouts to protect staffers in work zones along rail corridors.
The use of lookouts, known as “train approach warning,” is an old, antiquated safety practice in which designated workers watch out for approaching trains.
But investigators say lookouts are ineffective in some cases, and they are now recommending that PTCT be used in all corridors wherever it’s available.
PTCT has been found to be effective in cutting down on accidents, but it’s obviously expensive, much more expensive than simply assigning a worker to watch out for oncoming trains.
Thus, adoption of the technology has been slow in some regions of the U.S.
But that could soon change if the federal government makes PTCT a minimum safety standard.
What does this mean to you?
While the NTSB’s action focuses only on Amtrak, you should consider double-checking the status of your operation’s implementation of PTCT.
You can bet regulators won’t stop at Amtrak, especially in the wake of the national headlines from the Montana incident. They’ll want everyone in the rail industry to phase out the use of lookouts and accelerate the roll out of PTCT.
(From the Oct. 25, 2021, issue of Transportation Manager’s Dispatch. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)