FRA Issues Freight Locomotive Crashworthiness Standards

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has promulgated new regulations that the agency believes will give engineers and conductors a better chance of surviving locomotive collisions.

The first-ever federal freight locomotive crashworthiness standards, issued June 28, were created to prevent the locomotive cab from being crushed during a head-on collision with another locomotive, or when it strikes the rear of another train, a shifted load on a train on an adjacent track or a vehicle at a highway-rail grade crossing, Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Boardman said.

"This regulation will give engineers and conductors a better chance to walk away from the devastation and destruction of a locomotive collision," Boardman said. "Train crews deserve the highest level of protection possible."

The crashworthiness regulations call for upgraded structural elements such as stronger collision posts and the addition of anti-climbing equipment to keep the locomotive upright and in-line on the tracks after a collision occurs.

They also mandate that the interior of the locomotive cabs be reconfigured to soften many sharp edges and provide better emergency lighting and exits.

In addition, fuel tanks will have to be strengthened to prevent spills that could lead to a fire.

The rule changes will be required for locomotives newly manufactured or rebuilt beginning in January 2009.

The federal rule incorporates and expands on railroad industry standards first implemented in 1989. The standards, according to FRA, have significantly improved the crash performance of new locomotives.

The rule is the result of a collaborative effort by the Locomotive Crashworthiness Working Group of the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC), an ongoing FRA-led cooperative effort that includes representatives of all industry stakeholders.

A copy of the final rule can be found on the FRA Web site.

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