Methods to Increase Safety

Positive Train Control

Positive Train Control (PTC) is a system designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, unauthorized incursions into work zones, and train movement through switches left in the wrong position. PTC monitors and, if necessary, controls train movement in the event of human error. [See PTC Primer, HERE]

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Screening

An estimated 25 million Americans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing is constricted during sleep, depriving the brain of oxygen and the body of restful sleep, in addition to a host of other adverse health effects.  In a railroading environment, OSA screening identifies individuals who meet the risk profile and puts those employees through further testing and, as warranted, a treatment program.  An OSA treatment program, when followed, gives the railroad confidence in an employee’s fitness for duty. 

A robust sleep apnea screening program could possibly have prevented certain recent accidents, such as that in the Bronx (4 dead, 61 injured), at Atlantic Terminal (110 injured), and Hoboken (1 dead, 108 injured).  

USDOT requires screening and treatment of airline pilots, and 4,900 are currently in treatment – a condition of their continued employment.  And reducing fatigue-related accidents is at the top of the NTSB’s most-wanted list.  In August 2017, however, the FRA (and FHWA) withdrew a proposed rulemaking that would have mandated OSA screening for certain job categories.  

Despite the FRA’s decision not to move in the direction of mandating OSA screening, a number of commuter railroads have implemented programs to further ensure the safety of their passengers and employees.


Confidential Close Call Reporting Systems (C3RS)

Modeled after a program already in practice in the airline industry,  C3RS “provides a safe environment for employees to report unsafe events and conditions.”  To encourage reporting, employees receive protection from discipline and FRA enforcement. Railroads also receive protection from FRA enforcement for events reported within C3RS  framework. 

A number of commuter railroads across the US have voluntarily adopted an implemented C3RS programs.


Inward and Outward Facing Cameras

Railroads have been installing inward- and outward- facing audio and video recording devices to assist in incident investigations and to assure safety compliance.  Inward and outward facing devices have been recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) but the USDOT has not mandated such devices.


Civil Speed Enforcement 

Civil Speed Enforcement provides trains with positive enforcement of "civil" speed restrictions (those based on the physical characteristics of the line). By keeping track of a train's position and continuously calculating a maximum safe braking distance for each upcoming track segment, CSE mitigates the ‘human error’ factor. If the train exceeds the continuously-calculated safe braking distance then the train brakes are automatically applied.

While Civil Speed Enforcement (CSE) does not reduce as many risks for collisions as PTC, CSE does provide immediate safety improvements in advance of PTC system implementation, and all technical components of CSE are compatible with PTC.