Hoey & Farina shares the following U.S. Department of Transportation Office news release of January 20, 2016, concerning enforcement of railroad safety regulations leading to the highest-ever civil penalty collection rate: (Please see Hoey & Farina's comments at the end of this newsletter.)
"U.S Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Wednesday,January 20, 2016
FRA Public Affairs
Stepped-Up Enforcement Leads to
Federal Railroad Administration’s
Highest-Ever Penalty Collection Rate
Enforcement push is part of broader effort to
increase overall rail safety
WASHINGTON—The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today announced that its stepped-up enforcement of railroad safety regulations led to the highest-ever civil penalty collection rate in the agency’s 50-year history.
For Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, the agency will collect 75 percent of all civil penalties it issued to railroads for violating federal safety regulations – a six percent increase over FY2014, and the largest percentage rate ever collected by the agency. The total amount of civil penalties in FY2015, $15 million, increased by 12 percent compared to the previous year.
“Safety must be the number one priority for every railroad, and the Department of Transportation will continue to take aggressive action against railroads who fail to follow safety rules,” said U.S Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “A strong safety enforcement program is critical to prevent accidents, save lives and move our country forward.”
FRA’s collection rate is the highest in the agency’s history and significantly higher than previous years.
Last year, more than 6,485 railroad company violations resulted in civil penalties. The largest portion of those violations, 29 percent, was for motive power and equipment violations, followed by 26 percent for track violations.
“Setting a record for collections is an important milestone, but it is just one element of FRA’s broader effort to achieve a safer rail system,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg. “As we continue to aggressively enforce safety regulations, FRA will also continue to implement new, innovative solutions to increase safety.”
The stepped-up enforcement of safety regulations is part of the Federal Railroad Administration’s larger, comprehensive effort to increase safety of the nation’s rail system. Administrator Feinberg has also prioritized railroad crossing safety, improving the safety of hazmat and crude transport, increasing transparency and working more closely with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
To read the full report, visit: https://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/details/L17311#p1_z5_gD."
With respect to many of these violations, the FRA would not have known about them but for input from working railroaders. While the FRA has inspectors, there are not nearly enough of them to identify most violations. Reports of potential violations and unsafe conditions to local union legislative representatives lead to FRA investigations with the results you see here. This is particularly true of the motive power and equipment (MP&E) category because train and engine service employees are the first to notice the unsafe conditions. In many instances, if you write up an unsafe condition report, your local union legislative representative will pass this on to state legislative officers. They usually follow-up the local reports with reports to the FRA. Admittedly, the FRA will not investigate every unsafe condition reported to it, but if it sees a pattern of railroad violations and unsafe conditions, it is more likely to send out an investigator.
The bottom line here is to let your local union officers know about the violation or unsafe condition so that it can be followed-up in writing and memorialized for future reference. I know that many of you have heard this before at union meetings, but it cannot be stressed too often - report unsafe conditions and defective equipment and report them promptly. All of the categories listed in the U.S. Deparment of Transportations' news release above are important, but the ones most likely to be observed by railroad employees are the operating practice (OP) and the motive power and equipment (MP&E) violations.