On February 18, the Federal Railroad Administration issued a final rule in the Federal Register that requires each Class I freight railroad as well as freight railroads with inadequate safety performance to develop and implement a risk reduction program or RRP to improve operational safety. That rule is effective starting April 20.
[Above photo by the Virginia DOT.]
The agency said RRP is a “comprehensive, system-oriented approach to safety” that determines a railroad operation’s level of risk by identifying and analyzing applicable hazards, as well as the development of plans to mitigate – if not eliminate – that risk.
The FRA said each railroad covered by the rule gets the “flexibility” to tailor an RRP to its specific railroad operations. It also said the information collected solely to plan, implement, or evaluate an RRP is protected from discovery, admissibility into evidence, or use for other purposes in legal proceedings for damages involving personal injury, wrongful death, or property damage.
The rule also preempts state discovery rules and sunshine laws which could be used to require the disclosure of protected information in such proceedings, the agency noted.
However, National Transportation Safety Board Member Jennifer Homendy noted in a tweet on February 19 that “while she is glad the rule is out” it “fails to require freight railroads to implement fatigue management plans as part of their risk reduction program,” emphasizing that reducing fatigue-related transportation accidents is one of her agency’s top priorities.