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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

FRA issues advisory on sleep apnea screening, cameras in locomotives

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) last week issued a safety advisory calling on passenger and commuter railroads to improve safety by screening train operators for sleep apnea and installing inward- and outward-facing cameras in locomotives.

Railroad crew fatigue continues to be a concern of the FRA, particularly for crew members with sleep disorders who operate passenger trains, according to the safety advisory the FRA published last week in the Federal Register.

One of the more common disorders that can cause fatigue is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The lawyer of the engineer of a New Jersey Transit train that was involved in a fatal accident in Hoboken earlier this year has said his client had an undiagnosed case of the disorder, the FRA noted. 

"Undiagnosed or inadequately treated moderate to severe OSA can cause unintended sleep episodes and resulting deficits in attention, concentration, situational awareness, and memory, thus reducing the capacity to safely respond to hazards when performing safety sensitive duties," FRA stated in the advisory. "Thus, OSA is a critical safety issue that can affect operations in all modes of travel in the transportation industry."

In March, the FRA published a notice of proposed rulemaking requesting data and information concerning the prevalence of moderate-to-severe OSA.

The advisory also outlines the FRA's concerns regarding accident investigations involving trains that lack inward- and outward-facing recording devices in locomotives.

"FRA remains concerned with the ability to fully investigate accidents that appear to be human factor-caused where there is insufficient information from the controlling locomotive cab or cab operating compartment to conclusively determine what caused or contributed to an accident," the advisory stated. "Locomotive cab recording information could benefit investigations and help identify necessary corrective actions before similar train accidents occur."

FRA officials believe the recording devices would be "valuable in revealing crew actions and interactions before, during, and after an accident. FRA also believes that inward- and outward-facing cameras will give railroads the ability to monitor crew behavior to ensure compliance with existing federal regulations and railroad operating rules and deter noncompliance."

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More News from 12/12/2016