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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

OIG: FRA must improve track inspection program


The U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General has recommended that the Federal Railroad Administration improve its track inspection program.

The Automated Track Inspection Program (ATIP) is used in conjunction with track inspectors to determine whether railroads are complying with minimum safety requirements. The OIG found that the FRA's formal metric program for ATIP is outdated. More than half of the 539 reports the OIG reviewed contained inaccurate data, OIG officials said in a press release.

Overall, the FRA fell short of its goal to run the ATIP vehicles 150 survey days a year: While some vehicles came close to the goal individually, the collective fleet did not meet the goal with an average 80% utilization between fiscal years 2016 and 2021, OIG officials said. FRA officials claim weather and other reasons prevented the agency from completing the goal.

The inaccurate data contained in the reports is due in part to a lack of sufficient guidance on recording ATIP-related inspection activities, OIG officials said. The agency also relies on inspectors to respond promptly to changing conditions and use their territory knowledge in planning their work, but does not have any national or formal district-level track inspection planning processes in place.

"Until FRA improves ATIP utilization goals and ATIP-related track inspection reporting, it cannot ensure its resources are optimally targeted to support the agency’s track oversight," OIG officials reported.

The OIG issued six recommendations to improve the FRA's use of automated inspections. Those recommendations are considered resolved but open, pending completion of the planned actions.