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Locomotive 'black box' rule will improve accident investigations, FRA says

To safeguard trains’ "black box" data, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued a final rule requiring more durable locomotive event recorders that can remain intact after a train accident.

Within four years, railroads must replace magnetic-tape event recorders with boxes featuring electronic memory modules. Railroads also must improve event recorder inspection, testing and maintenance procedures.

In addition, the rule requires railroads to store black box data recorded during an accident for one year instead of the current 30 days so federal accident investigators have more time to review recordings.

The rule also stipulates that black boxes be hardened to prevent data loss from a fire, impact shock or immersion, and record horn activation, and cruise and train control data sent to a locomotive’s onboard display. The boxes currently record train speed, automatic air brake, throttle position and cab signal data.

“We are making sure that investigators have more and better information available when working to find the cause of an accident,” said FRA Administrator Joseph Boardman in a prepared statement.

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More News from 6/30/2005