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Rail News: Passenger Rail

FRA: NJ Transit's bookkeeping at issue, not its safety


Following a comprehensive audit of New Jersey Transit’s safety records, Federal Railroad Administration has documented 91 violations and will award an estimated $297,000 in civil penalties, pending chief counsel’s office individual case review.

"It’s one of the largest fines we’ve issued for administrative [compliance]. We consider it very serious," says Mike Purviance, FRA spokesperson, adding that, bookkeeping failures aside, FRA does not believe NJ Transit is unsafe. "If we did, … we would have taken extraordinary measures."

The violations include 23 willful failures to report on-duty employee injuries; three willful violations of the carrier failing to report off-duty employee injuries; 14 cases where NJ Transit did not report passenger injuries that meet requirements; one instance where the carrier did not report an accident (as opposed to an injury); seven violations resulting from NJ Transit not providing a code on the report identifying what the employee was doing and his or her involvement in an accident or incident; one case of the carrier submitting a late report; two willful violations of not recording injuries on the injury and/or illness record; and 40 cases in which NJ Transit did not record incidents on an initial rail equipment accident and incident record.

Reporting an accident or incident involves filling out a report; recording one involves entering it into a log. Recording violations primarily involved noting the incident, but not transferring the information to the log.

The 40 violations regarding the rail equipment accident and incident record could include anything as minor as finding debris on the track.

"Most of the accidents I’ve heard are slips, trips and falls," says Purviance. "But even in the passenger injuries that were not reported could be [cases of] somebody tripping over a pencil or a piece of ice. Or if somebody got a paper cut and reported it to the station manager, that would have to go in there."

The "willful" violations were ones in which management knew about the incidents but failed to do the proper record-keeping.

NJ Transit is not commenting publicly about the audit, but has issued a statement accepting the report and promising to fully comply with FRA’s recommendations.

"They took it willingly and quite rapidly that they were going to correct any of the systematic errors that led up to these violations," says Purviance.

FRA plans to monitor 100 percent of the agency’s recording practices for the next three years.

Kathi Kube

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/13/2001