Improvements Needed in DOT's Hazardous Materials Rail Safety Program

T-RCED-90-13: Published: Nov 7, 1989. Publicly Released: Nov 7, 1989.

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GAO discussed its work on rail transportation of hazardous materials, focusing on the: (1) Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) Hazardous Materials Inspection Program; and (2) Research and Special Programs Administration's (RSPA) Hazardous Materials Information System. GAO noted that FRA implementation of its inspection program has been hampered by: (1) inadequate guidance and excessive independence for program inspectors; (2) inappropriate targeting of inspection resources on railroad facilities instead of shipper facilities and on tank cars instead of on safety procedures; and (3) insufficient staff. GAO also noted that both it and the Office of Technology Assessment had criticized RSPA because: (1) while RSPA made some improvements, the database on hazardous materials releases was inaccurate and incomplete; (2) RSPA should require shippers to submit reports on hazardous materials releases and should collect other data to ensure that all releases are reported; and (3) RSPA has not established a program to register hazardous materials shippers.

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