Improvements Needed in FRA's Hazardous Materials Inspection and Safety Reporting Programs

T-RCED-90-35: Published: Feb 28, 1990. Publicly Released: Feb 28, 1990.

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GAO discussed the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) hazardous materials inspection program and five railroads' reporting of accidents and injuries. GAO found that: (1) FRA inspection coverage was minimal; (2) from 1985 to 1989, hazardous material releases increased by 40 percent; (3) track and equipment defects and human error were the two primary causes of reported rail accidents; (4) FRA inspectors did not adequately inspect shipper and railroad safety procedures; and (5) FRA did not systematically identify shippers transporting hazardous materials by rail. GAO also found that: (1) railroads did not report complete or accurate injury and accident data; (2) the majority of hazardous material releases did not result from rail accidents, but from defective equipment; and (3) there were not enough inspectors or adequate guidelines to effectively implement the inspection program.

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