Need for Improved Action on Railroad Safety Recommendations

CED-78-171: Published: Dec 29, 1978. Publicly Released: Jan 15, 1979.

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A study was made concerning: (1) the actions taken by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in response to railroad safety recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB); (2) NTSB followup procedures on railroad safety recommendations; and (3) FRA use of its own accident investigations to promote railroad safety.

FRA does not respond promptly to NTSB safety recommendations. In many cases, FRA has not responded to NTSB within 90 days or provided timetables for implementing recommendations, although this is required by law. FRA also does not adequately monitor actions promised by its operating units to carry out NTSB recommendations and does not inform NTSB or the Office of the Secretary of Transportation of important changes or delays to promised action. Although the Office of the Secretary of Transportation is responsible for assuring that the Department's operating administrations comply with statutory requirements related to NTSB recommendations, it neither monitors responses to recommendations nor explains the status of past open recommendations in its annual report. The Department and NTSB use different criteria for determining the status of recommendations; thus, the agencies do not always agree on whether FRA has completed action on NTSB recommendations.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should require FRA to improve its internal procedures for handling NTSB recommendations; monitor actions promised in response to recommendations systematically and make sure that actions are completed in accordance with the timetable submitted to NTSB; and issue periodic status reports to NTSB and the Office of the Secretary that will describe what has been accomplished, changes that have occurred, and estimate when the proposed action will be completed. To improve the Department's monitoring, the Secretary of Transportation should require the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs to review periodically FRA responses to NTSB recommendations. The Secretary of Transportation should also revise Department requirements to specify that the annual report to the Secretary will include the status of all open NTSB recommendations without regard to the year in which they were made and revise Department criteria for evaluating NTSB recommendations as open or closed.

    Agency Affected:


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