NTSB hosts training seminar for BLE Safety Task Force

Members of the BLE's Safety Task Force's (STF) Primary Team recently participated in an orientation program conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in Washington, D.C. The NTSB is charged by Congress with broad powers to investigate accidents in all transportation modes, including rail.

BLE Vice-President William Walpert, who is the current National Chairman of the Safety Task Force, arranged for the training program with the NTSB.

"The training was conducted to ensure that all of our Primary Team Safety Task Force members were familiar with the regulations and procedures of the National Transportation Safety Board so as to facilitate a better working relationship with the agency when we're called upon to assist in accident investigations," Walpert said.

He went on to explain that the training was organized as a result of a request he made to the NTSB some time ago.

The number of STF zones across the United States was recently reduced from five to two. Territory east of the Mississippi River is under the direction of Zone Leader John Tolman, and territory west of the Mississippi is under Zone Leader Dave Ditzel. Both have had considerable experience with all phases of NTSB investigations in past years.

"At the request of the NTSB, one of the 15 Primary Team members will be used in every launch of an investigation," Walpert said.

The NTSB will no longer conduct regional accident investigations, but in cases where a minimal number of Safety Board members are used, only the Zone Leader will be assigned. Secondary STF Team members will continue to work major accidents, and may be used in accident investigation for training purposes. They also will monitor and report accidents in their area as they occur.

The BLE Safety Task Force has gained the respect of the NTSB over the years.

"Because of the STF's participation in accident investigations, we have been in a position to offer considerable and significant input into the findings and safety recommendations adopted by the Safety Board," Walpert said. "In fact, in several of its final reports, NTSB has attributed recommendations to the STF."

The BLE was the first rail labor organization to institute a dedicated program to participate in NTSB accident investigations. Established by former President Larry McFather, it has grown over the years. Current BLE President Edward Dubroski was the first National Chairman of the STF, shaping the organizational structure and participating in many public hearings held by the NTSB during a number of accident investigations.

Dubroski said that prior to the institution of the STF, there was no consistent, systematic approach by the BLE to NTSB accident investigation.

"In the past, the BLE played only a sporadic role in the follow-up part of an investigation, which can take up to a year, and which leads to the important safety recommendations that are issued by the Board," Dubroski said. "We have been able to make meaningful safety recommendations on a consistent basis, and this has favorably impacted safety on the nation's railroads, not only for our members, but also for other rail workers, communities and the traveling public."

Since the BLE's creation of the Safety Task Force, other unions have followed suit, including the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen and the United Transportation Union.

Seated, from left: Carl Fields (Chicago), BLE-STF Zone Leader John Tolman, NTSB Board Member John Goglia, BLE Vice-President William Walpert, BLE-STF Zone Leader Dave Ditzel, and Ed Way (St. Louis). Standing, from left: NTSB Member James P. Dunn, NTSB Member Robert Lauby, Don Bergman (Tucson, Ariz.), Tom O'Brien (Chicago), Marvin Merchant (Kansas City), Roland Kleinsorge (Los Angeles) , Dan Lauzon (Boston), Ben Blissett (Roanoke, Va.), Rodney Stutes (Houston), Ken Kroeger (Tucson), Tom Fooshee (Phoenix), and NTSB member Dwight Foster.

A National Transportation Safety Board laboratory technician explains how certain technologies assist in accident investigations during the BLE Safety Task Force's training session at NTSB headquarters. From left: John Tolman, Tom Fooshee, Marvin Merchant and the NTSB lab technician.


2000 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers