NTSB issues safety recommendation to CSXT

In a safety recommendation issued on March 21, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that CSX Transportation's failure to sufficiently train and oversee a locomotive engineer, as well as a flawed operating rule, led to a fatal freight train derailment two years ago in Bloomington, Md.

One of cars involved in the Jan. 30, 2000, derailment destroyed a nearby home, killing a 15-year-old boy and seriously injuring his mother. Three other occupants of the home escaped without injury, and members of the train crew were not hurt. Overall, 76 of the train's 80 cars derailed, causing more than $3.2 million in damages.

"The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the January 30, 2000, derailment of CSXT train V986-26 near Bloomington, Md., was the railroad's practice of including dynamic braking in determining maximum authorized speed without providing the engineer with real-time information on the status of the dynamic braking system," the NTSB safety recommendation stated.

"While the Bloomington accident engineer's actions do not appear to have directly caused or contributed to the accident, some of his actions, or some of his failures to act, reflect upon the efficacy of his supervision, training and support."

The engineer involved had been transferred from yard service to engine service just a few weeks before the derailment. The road foreman told him he could have a pilot for two roundtrips. For his first trip, a pilot was provided on the westbound leg (uphill) from Cumberland, Md., to Grafton, W.Va., which is the opposite direction of the accident. However, no pilot was provided for the second leg of the trip.

"The engineer said that when he was called for his second trip, he asked that a pilot accompany him on the return to Cumberland," the report states.

"But, he said, a crew caller told him that the crew caller and the lead crew caller would decide whether the engineer needed a pilot and, if so, would provide one. No pilot was provided."

According to company records, no CSXT supervisor had ridden with the engineer while he operated a train down the 17-mile grade to monitor his performance or to provide specific train handling instruction and guidance, "even though this area was a critical train handling portion of the railroad," the NTSB said.

The NTSB recommended that, in the future, CSXT provide engineers with pilots when appropriate. It also recommended that CSXT change one of its operating rules, which it said contributed to the derailment.

"The Safety Board concluded that, because the CSXT rule regarding powering against the brakes does not address train speed, it is inadequate to ensure that an engineer does not exceed the bhp and head energy limitations of the tread brake system and thereby create conditions that can lead to a runaway train," the report stated.

The NTSB recommended that CSXT take the following steps to prevent similar accidents in the future:

A copy of the safety recommendation is available at the BLE website: http://www.ble.org/pr/pdf/R02_8_12.pdf


2002 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers