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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

FRA calls for reevaluation of train makeup


The Federal Railroad Administration last week issued an advisory raising concerns about train makeup to ensure railroads address potential safety risks.

The advisory asks railroads to exercise “due diligence” and take proactive measures related to operating train builds with varying configurations, load and empty placement, distributed power arrangements and other factors.

The agency issued the advisory in the aftermath of several train derailments that occurred this year and in 2022, including train length, distributed power units, trailing units, first car derailed, train type, cars carrying hazardous materials, derailed hazmat cars, evacuations and key trains.

"FRA has noticed a rising trend in recent incidents where train build and makeup have been identified as a potential cause or contributing factor," the notice states. "In response, FRA incorporates train simulations into its investigative process when it is suspected that high in-train forces may have contributed to train accidents."

To address the concerns, the FRA provided the following recommendations for freight railroads:

• Review and update train makeup, policies, procedures and guidelines to ensure they are comprehensive, effective and current;
• ensure all personnel involved in train makeup decisions and operations receive training, guidance and supervision to execute such practices to ensure safe operations;
• establish a system to monitor and assess train makeup practices;
• encourage communication among train crews, dispatchers, yardmasters and maintenance personnel;
• implement strategies to mitigate risks associated with train build factors; and
• enhance incident investigation procedures to address train makeup factors and their potential contribution to the cause of the incident.

An official notice will be published in the Federal Register "in the near future," according to the advisory.