The Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Railroad Safety issued the following bulletin on Feb. 13, 2024, in response to an industry fatality earlier this year. The text is reproduced below:


The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is investigating an accident that resulted in fatal injuries to a locomotive engineer during yard switching operations.

At the time of the accident, the fatally injured engineer, who had approximately 30 years of experience, was operating a locomotive on the east side of the yard and working with a conductor and brakeman to switch cars. Another crew was switching cars on the west side of the yard and had set out 35 cars.

At some point, those 35 cars from the west side of the yard track rolled uncontrolled towards the east, colliding with the locomotive, occupied by the engineer, that was located on the east yard
track switching lead. The collision ejected the engineer from the locomotive cab and the engineer succumbed to his injuries.

Although FRA’s investigation into this accident is ongoing, FRA is issuing this bulletin to remind railroads and railroad employees of the importance of ensuring rolling equipment is properly secured at all times, including ensuring:

  1. Employees understand the importance of complying with railroad rules for securement of
    rolling equipment;
  2. Railroads provide employees adequate training on railroad operating rules and procedures
    for proper securement of rolling equipment;
  3. Railroads provide employees appropriate periodic oversight of compliance with railroad
    operating rules and procedures for proper securement of rolling equipment;
  4. Railroads empower employees to seek immediate clarification of any safety rule,
    including rules related to the securement of equipment; and
  5. Railroads remind employees of the dangers associated with improperly secured rolling
    equipment.

The purpose of this Safety Bulletin, which is informal in nature, is to ensure the railroad industry, including railroad employees, are aware of this recent accident that resulted in a fatality of an employee. As FRA completes its investigation, it may take additional actions with respect to this accident.

For further information, please contact John Mayser, Operating Practices Specialist, at john.mayser@dot.gov or (202) 493-8008.

Issued: February 13, 2024


This bulletin is available below as a printable PDF.


Remember to use the union’s Safety Condition Report either through the website or the SMART app to alert officers to concerns about your property. Railroad workers who experience difficulty with Positive Train Control are also encouraged to fill out a Technology Event Report.

On December 8, 2023, United States President Joe Biden and SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson announced a $6 billion investment in America’s rail infrastructure and in the value of union jobs through two high-speed rail projects in California and Nevada.

“When I ran for president, I made a commitment to build a high-speed rail worthy of America. I mean it — put our nation on track with the fastest, safest and greenest railways in the world, and high-speed,” President Biden said during an announcement event in Las Vegas, Nevada. “You have no idea how much this pleases me: At long last, we are building the first high-speed rail project in our nation’s history, and it’s starting here.

“It means growth and opportunity for towns and communities between here and the California coast. It’s on track to be completed by the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. And here’s the best part — it means jobs. Union jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs!”

“The idea of high-speed rail has been discussed in this country for decades, and it is beyond exciting to see it coming together here today,” Ferguson added. “Our members, and our brothers and sisters throughout rail labor, should see this as a day when our nation’s president and the country itself recognized our value and what we bring to the table. The skills our conductors, engineers and yardmasters possess were not an afterthought when the plans for this rail line came together. They are invaluable to this project and woven into the fabric of what will make this high-speed rail project a success.”

Labor representatives at the announcement of two U.S. high-speed rail projects with Federal Railroad Administrator Amit Bose in Las Vegas

This project has been years in the making and is becoming a reality now due to the public-private partnership between the federal government and the Brightline West Railroad. In plans submitted to the administration, Brightline highlighted the efficiency of this high-speed rail project, stating that trains will travel at speeds upwards of 186 mph – making it possible to get from Southern California to Las Vegas in just over two hours, a fraction of the time it takes on the highway. Other benefits include taking traffic off the heavily congested U.S. Interstate 15, as well as positive impacts on environmental emissions. This project will also bolster the economies of some of our nation’s largest cities.

As a stipulation for receiving federal funding, Brightline West committed to using an organized workforce. SMART-TD has been part of the planning for this project since the railroad made that commitment to Biden and Congress. Along with employing thousands of our brothers and sisters in the SMART Rail, Mechanical and Engineering Department, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, TCU and all of our rail labor partners, Brightline West also committed to running their trains with SMART-TD crews.

SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director Gregory Hynes shakes hands with President Joe Biden on Friday, Dec. 8, after Biden’s announcement about funding a pair of high-speed rail projects in California and Las Vegas.

The project will provide hundreds of good, union jobs in the railroad industry, and it serves as an example of what can be accomplished when private industry, the federal government and a strong labor coalition are all pulling in the same direction.

“It’s a proud day for us, and we thank Congresswoman Dina Titus from Nevada’s First Congressional District, Congressman Steven Horsford from Nevada District 4, Congresswoman Susie Lee from Nevada’s Third District, and Nevada’s U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto, along with the Department of Transportation, and of course, President Joe Biden himself for all of their work to make this dream a reality for our men and women,” Ferguson concluded.

Since 1998, trains coming across the Mexican border to the United States in Laredo, Texas, have been run by crews from Mexico that are not certified by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). These crews have been taking trains into Port Laredo, where they receive an initial Class I inspection and brake test on U.S. soil.

This practice was established back in 1998, when Union Pacific requested a variance from FRA. The variance was reconfirmed in 2003, 2008, 2013, 2018 and was reapplied for in 2022. For years, the agency’s leaders responded to any request for renewal by saying, “Yes — if the railroad asked for it, it must be OK.”

But in 2023 — unlike the four prior requests — SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson, National Legislative Director Greg Hynes, Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity and Kamron Saunders, Texas’s state legislative director, officially requested FRA put an end to this practice. Along with our allies in the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department and other rail labor organizations, SMART-TD submitted strong public comments that pointed out many holes in the logic.

In October, FRA released its ruling on UP’s variance request. The carrier will continue to be allowed to perform Class I brake tests 10 miles into the U.S. in its yard in Port Laredo, Texas. However, in a clear victory for labor, a new rule was added:

“13. All trains crossing the international bridge at Laredo and destined for UP’s Port Laredo Yard must be operated from the bridge to that Yard by a properly qualified and certified UP locomotive engineer and conductor.”

Local Chairperson Eddy Castaneda of Local 1670 (Laredo, Texas) is also vice general chairperson of the San Antonio Hub, and explained that he is highly excited about the news out of the FRA.

“It has been a long fight to get this work back, and this is a big win for us. It wouldn’t have been possible without everyone working together,” he said. “All the local chairs in the Laredo Hub — Scott Chelette, our general committee chair, and Kamron Saunders, our Texas state legislative director — as well as the International, have been relentless: working on Congress and the FRA to get these jobs back in the hands of FRA-certified crews.

“We are grateful for those of us here in Laredo, but we have a long fight still to go. There are many other border crossings and a lot more crew bases we need to fight for.”

President Ferguson was in Texas at a Houston rail labor rally shortly after the FRA released its ruling.

“The carriers involved gave our work to non-FRA-certified foreign national crews a long time ago to save a buck for their shareholders,” he said at the time. “Today, our members got back some work that is rightfully ours, and this country is safer and better off for it. I’m proud of the work SMART-TD has done to make this happen.”

Cassity said FRA’s action is a step towards normalizing cross-border regulation.

“It is great that we got this work back for our crews, but the big-picture win is that FRA listened to SMART-TD,” he explained. “They listened to the views of Kamron Saunders and didn’t blindly swallow whatever the railroads tried to sell them. This FRA isn’t afraid to deny the railroad what they want if it isn’t the safest policy for our workers and the country itself.”

For more information, read FRA’s ruling embedded below. 

Joint safety initiative provides employees confidential forum to report safety issues  

ATLANTA and INDEPENDENCE, OH (January 29, 2024) —  Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC), the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division (SMART-TD), and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), in partnership with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), announced Monday their joint participation in an FRA Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS) pilot program designed to enhance railroad safety. 

“NS is proud to partner with our labor leaders and FRA to make another industry-leading advancement in safety,” said Alan H. Shaw, Norfolk Southern President and CEO.  “We are committed to setting the gold standard for rail safety, and we are proud to be the first Class I railroad to deliver on our promise to co-develop and launch a C3RS program.” 

Under the one-year C3RS pilot, covered NS employees can report safety concerns with the certainty that such reports will not result in discipline. NASA will deidentify data and provide it for review by a joint committee of NS and labor representatives, who, with FRA’s guidance, will identify and implement corrective actions to improve safety. 

“This is huge step forward for the safety of our brothers and sisters at Norfolk Southern,” said SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson. “SMART-TD has been a long-time champion of C3RS, and this new program will allow our members to speak up when they see unsafe conditions without fear of negative repercussions. I would like to thank General Chairpersons James Ball, Joe Borders, Tommy Gholson, David Phillips, and Dan Weir for their unwavering commitment to bringing C3RS to their members.” 

“It should be the goal of everyone who works in the railroad industry to continually improve safety,” said BLET National President Eddie Hall. “Providing a confidential platform to report unsafe practices allows us to harness the power of every worker’s voice. NS and its CEO, Alan Shaw, should be applauded for taking this step. I hope that this will become a model for other Class I freight railroads.” Added Hall, “I also would like to commend the leadership shown by General Chairmen Scott Bunten, Dewayne Dehart, and Jerry Sturdivant who helped make this happen by negotiating on behalf of our NS members.” 

Participation in this C3RS pilot underscores NS, SMART-TD and BLET’s shared belief that collaboration and transparency are foundational pillars of an effective safety program. Key goals of the C3RS pilot program include: 

  • Collecting currently unreported unsafe practices, behaviors, or situations; 
  • Identifying and implementing corrective actions; and 
  • Sharing general trends and statistics to enhance railroad safety. 

Throughout the program, FRA will provide oversight, guidance, and support to the parties as they analyze safety data and work to effect positive change. 

“FRA’s C3RS program provides a useful industry-wide platform to gather valuable insights from frontline railroad workers when they experience close calls – helping to uncover risks and providing opportunities for railroads and their workers to take actions to prevent serious safety incidents,” said Amit Bose, FRA Administrator. “We appreciate BLET, NS, and SMART-TD’s collaboration on this important partnership, and FRA remains committed to further expanding participation in the C3RS program to advance safety.”

###

About Norfolk Southern 

Since 1827, Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC) and its predecessor companies have safely moved the goods and materials that drive the U.S. economy. Today, it operates a customer-centric and operations-driven freight transportation network. Committed to furthering sustainability, Norfolk Southern helps its customers avoid approximately 15 million tons of yearly carbon emissions by shipping via rail. Its dedicated team members deliver more than 7 million carloads annually, from agriculture to consumer goods, and is the largest rail shipper of auto products and metals in North America. Norfolk Southern also has the most extensive intermodal network in the eastern U.S., serving a majority of the country’s population and manufacturing base, with connections to every major container port on the Atlantic coast as well as the Gulf of Mexico and Great Lakes. Learn more by visiting www.NorfolkSouthern.com

NS Media Inquiries: Media Relations; NS Investor Inquiries: Luke Nichols 

About the BLET 

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 57,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States employed in both freight and passenger rail.  Founded in 1863, BLET is the oldest union in the United States. The BLET also is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters. For more information visit the union’s website at www.BLET.org. 

BLET Media Inquiries: Jamie Horwitz 

About SMART-TD 

SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members who work in a variety of different crafts in the transportation industry. These crafts include employees on every Class I railroad, Amtrak, many shortline railroads, bus and mass transit employees and airport personnel. More information about the union is available at www.smart-union.org

SMART-TD Media Inquiries: Ben Nagy 

WASHINGTON – The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today announced a final rule to improve employee safety on freight trains transporting hazardous materials. The rule requires railroads to provide emergency escape breathing apparatuses (EEBAs) for train crew members and other employees who could be exposed to an inhalation hazard in the event of a hazardous material, or hazmat, release. Railroads must also ensure that the equipment is maintained and in proper working condition and train their employees in its use. This rule was advanced after the Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine.
 
“As FRA continues to advance rail safety and address concerns related to the transportation of hazardous materials, this new rule will implement needed protections for the workers who transport these products around the country,” said FRA Administrator Amit Bose. “The safety needs and benefits of EEBAs have long been established by past tragedies and research, and this rule will provide rail employees with the knowledge and tools to minimize potential dangers.” 
 
Although casualties and fatalities caused by inhalation of hazmat are rare, train crew fatalities in 2004 and 2005 resulting from chlorine gas inhalation demonstrated that employee protections are necessary. The final rule fulfills the mandate in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 that FRA issue regulations requiring railroads to provide EEBAs and training in their use. The rule also addresses similar recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board. 
 
As part of this final rule, FRA conducted a Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA), which presents estimates of the costs likely to occur over the first 10 years of industry’s compliance with the final rule. The RIA will help facilitate railroads’ implementation of the rule’s requirements for EEBAs. As part of the benefits of the new rule, the analysis finds that in addition to heightened safety and the prevention of injuries for covered employees, it will allow for earlier public notification in the event of hazmat releases.
 
The final rule on Emergency Escape Breathing Apparatus Standards is on public inspection in the Federal Register here and will be published tomorrow.

Since 1998, trains coming across the Mexican border to the United States in Laredo, Texas, have been run by non-FRA-certified foreign national crews from Mexico. These foreign crews have been taking trains into Port Laredo, where they receive an initial Class I inspection and brake test on U.S. soil.  

This practice was established back in 1998 when Union Pacific requested a variance from FRA. The variance was reconfirmed in 2003, 2008, 2013, 2018 and was reapplied for in 2022.  

Multiple times this variance has come up for renewal, and the question has been asked of FRA whether it would be permissible for crews over whom they have no oversight to take trains 10 miles deep into our country without an inspection and without a thorough brake test. For years, the agency’s leaders answered, “Yes — If the railroad asked for it, it must be OK.”  

In 2023, UP put in its standard request seeking a rubber stamp to continue the practice, using the same tired justifications the carrier has used for a quarter-century. All unions know crews are paid by the mile, and UP had somehow found a way to trade the border security of this country and the safety of our rails so the carrier wouldn’t have to pay U.S.-based crews for those 10 extra miles a day.  

But unlike the four prior requests, SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson, National Legislative Director Greg Hynes, Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity and Kamron Saunders, Texas’s state legislative director, officially requested FRA put an end to this practice. Along with our allies in the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department and other rail labor organizations, SMART-TD submitted strong public comments that pointed out many holes in the logic.  

This week, FRA released its ruling on UP’s variance request. The carrier will continue to be allowed to perform Class I brake tests 10 miles into the U.S. in its yard in Port Laredo, Texas.  

HOWEVER, in a clear victory for labor, a new rule was added.  

13. All trains crossing the international bridge at Laredo and destined for UP’s Port Laredo Yard must be operated from the bridge to that Yard by a properly qualified and certified UP locomotive engineer and conductor.” 

Local Chairperson Eddy Castaneda of Local 1670 (Laredo, Texas) is also vice general chairperson of the San Antonio Hub and highly excited about the news out of the FRA this week.  

“It has been a long fight to get this work back, and this is a big win for us. It wouldn’t have been possible without everyone working together,” he said. “All the local chairs in the Laredo Hub, Scott Chelette, our general committee chair, and Kamron Saunders, our Texas state legislative director, as well as the International, have been relentless — working on congressmen and the FRA to get these jobs back in the hands of FRA-certified crews. 

“We are grateful for those of us here in Laredo, but we have a long fight still to go. There are many other border crossings and a lot more crew bases we need to fight for.” 

President Ferguson was in Texas at a Houston rail labor rally shortly after the FRA released its ruling. When he got word of this win for common sense and public safety, he had this to say: 

“The carriers involved gave our work to non-FRA-certified foreign national crews a long time ago to save a buck for their shareholders. Today, our members got back some work that is rightfully ours and this country is safer and better off for it. I’m proud of the work SMART-TD has done to make this happen. This ruling helps shore up a national security concern. This is a good day for our members and this country’s safety.” 

Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity said FRA’s action is a step forward to normalizing cross-border regulation. 

“It is great that we got this work back for our crews and were able to add security to our borders, but the big-picture win is that FRA listened to SMART-TD,” Cassity said. “They listened to the views of Kamron Saunders and didn’t blindly swallow whatever the railroads tried to sell them. This FRA isn’t afraid to deny the railroad what they want if it isn’t the safest policy for our workers and the country itself.”  

For more information, read FRA’s ruling embedded below. 

The SMART Transportation Division would like to thank all our members who have been filling out the safety forms when PTC doesn’t work as intended, when long trains make handheld radios useless, when signals drop out and when a DP units fail and there’s a mile of cars between the crew and the ability to fix the problem. 

All these reports from the ground are the ammo we need as a union to fight the carriers for you.

As railroaders with any time under our belts at all, we know that it is never a good idea to take the railroad you work for at face value when they try to convince you that a proposed change they are is “small” or “won’t have any effect” on you or your co-workers. That skepticism we all have toward the carriers obviously ends up being amplified when 19 railroads come together to request a “minor and insignificant” change to a federal statute on rail safety.

On June 28, that is exactly what happened when 19 railroads, including all six of the Class I freight carriers, submitted a joint request to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) asking them to change the definition of the term “initial terminal. (PDF below).

This alliance of would-be competitors rallied together around the cause of changing the official definition, saying that they only wanted to change it in terms of PTC rules. Since you must have a functioning PTC to take the main from an initial terminal, the carriers claimed they were concerned that passenger trains that change directions at the end of the line and go the opposite direction under a new train symbol are getting stranded and unable to move their passengers because of the current definition of “initial terminal” for a new train. They also put forward an example of a coal train in relay service that goes into the coal plant empty under one train symbol and leaves under a new train symbol when loaded. Their argument is that when the train symbol changes, if the PTC doesn’t reinitialize they currently aren’t permitted to take the main and head to the end user. This is because the current definition of that coal plant as the initial terminal of the loaded train under the new symbol means that it was not an en route failure for the second train.

This explanation was difficult to believe for us here at SMART-TD. Relay service on coal trains isn’t where these Fortune 500 companies are making their fortunes, and there is no reason to believe that 19 freight railroads are reaching out because they are concerned for the well-being of Amtrak and the convenience of their ridership.

When this joint request was published, SMART-TD’s National Legislative Department went to work on getting to the bottom of what these companies were trying to accomplish with this seemingly harmless changing of the meaning of a term. What we figured out was just as predictably deceptive as you would expect.

The first way that using their newly minted definition of the initial terminal would benefit them affects the way one railroad interchanges with another company. If the PTC doesn’t load for the new leg of the trip, under the proposed new definition, this second railroad could take off without having PTC available, and they could treat it as an en route failure even though that is a new train on their lines.

The second way it would benefit the company is that under the current PTC rules if a train is rerouted, the PTC information must be updated so the miles on the alternative route are run with PTC. This change in verbiage would have changed that, too. These companies can’t be slowed down by waiting for their own safety-related software to be updated. This proposed change would have been a permission slip for them to send crews on alternate routes into territory they, by definition, are less familiar with, without the safety redundancy of PTC.

In a public comment sent to the FRA on Aug. 8, 2023, by Greg Hynes, SMART-TD’s National Legislative Director, SMART pointed out that the reasons and examples the railroads gave FRA as to why they wanted this change of definition were nonsense. NLD Hynes demonstrated the real incentive for the railroad was the ability to run thousands of rail miles without having to be hampered by federal regulations meant to safeguard our members and the communities we run through.

Hynes went on to describe that, in his career of fighting against railroad companies’ regulatory overreaches, he saw this request as being the first chess move the railroads were using to set up the board for a more-aggressive offensive maneuver on their next turn. He told the FRA that by changing the definition of the initial terminal now only in the context of PTC, it was logical that they would come back to the government later and ask it to change the definition of the initial terminal when it comes to the topic of Class I brake tests. He described in detail that this proposal from the railroads to “make the verbiage consistent and avoid confusion” would have devastating effects on the safety of our nation’s rails.

Last week, on Aug. 14, the FRA made its decision. FRA in its dedication to public safety, and in reference to SMART-TD’s concerns and those of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department, officially denied the 19 railroads’ request to change the definition of “initial terminal.” (PDF below).

On paper, this victory looks to be merely the maintaining of the status quo, but it cannot be overstated how big of a victory this was for rail labor and common sense. It is a demonstration that SMART-TD’s National Legislative Office of three people outgunned the legal and lobbying wings of 19 combined railroads. The railroads had a massive manpower advantage, and the majority of their people have law degrees. But what they don’t have is railroad experience and the power of 100,000 men and women behind their words.

We can’t thank you enough for your support.

Please keep these reports coming. And, rest assured, your union will remain in the trenches fighting these carriers every step of the way.

On April 27, Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Amit Bose issued a safety advisory regarding carriers’ operation of longer trains.

The recommendations by FRA include that carriers review their
operating rules and existing locomotive engineer certification programs to address operational complexities of train length, take appropriate action to prevent the loss of communications between end-of-train devices and mitigate the impacts of long trains on blocked crossings.

“it is known that the in-train forces longer trains experience are generally stronger and more complex than those in shorter train consists,” the advisory states. “FRA is issuing this Safety Advisory to ensure railroads and railroad employees are aware of the potential complexities associated with operating longer trains and to ensure they take appropriate measures.”

The submitted advisory appears below, with the final version to be published in the Federal Register.

Norfolk Southern is and has been hiring new freight conductors at a noteworthy rate in 2023. As the labor organization that represents newly hired conductors, that is great news to the SMART Transportation Division. But like most pieces of good news that come from the railroad, this one comes with a catch.

In this case, it is a very significant catch. The problem with NS hiring record numbers of new conductors is that this perennial Fortune 500 company has been operating without a Federal Railroad Administration-approved conductor certification training program for 21 months.

The FRA has been questioning NS about its conductor training program since October 2021. Since that time, NS has submitted multiple proposals for training programs to the FRA; however, all of them have fallen short of FRA’s expectations and have been denied.

On Wednesday, June 14, 2023, the clock ran out as FRA served notice to Norfolk Southern’s board of directors that they have 15 days to produce an acceptable plan for a conductor certification training program to them and an additional 30 days (a total of 45 days) to get the plan implemented.

FRA issued three findings it deemed to be unacceptable in the current methodology NS uses to train their new-hire conductors. In the order they sent to NS’s office in Atlanta, it listed each of the three unacceptable issues they found in their safety audit along with FRA-prescribed “corrective actions” that they state NS, “must take” within the 45 days they have been allotted. The findings/actions are as follows:

  1. Increasing the minimum time trainmen can be allotted for On the Job Training (OJT) from the current 13 days.
  2. FRA found a lack of a defined process for OJT, a lack of a process to track the progress of individual trainees, and a lack of on-property training coordinators to lead the OJT programs.
  3. FRA found a pattern of violations on NS’s part involving the company designating employees as “qualified instructors” of trainees without making any attempt to find out if the employees are qualified or willing to act as instructors.

The corrective actions that FRA is mandating NS take to address these issues are broad, potentially expensive and absolutely overdue. It should not be a surprise to a company in the rail industry that 13 days of OJT is not acceptable.

As part of the prescribed corrective action plan from FRA, Norfolk Southern is obligated to consult with “relevant employee labor organizations” as part of developing their plan before they submit it to FRA. SMART-TD has already been working with Norfolk Southern to enhance other quality-of-life issues for our members. NS has already reached out to our union leadership in an effort to include us in the effort to shore up their training program.

This is a responsibility your union takes very seriously. SMART-TD has every intention to work diligently in order to make sure NS’s new training curriculum will be thoughtfully designed and ensures that our new-hire conductors are equipped with the tools they need to be safe and productive members of our railroad family.

FRA SAFETY BULLETIN 2023-02

SUBJECT: Highway-Rail Grade Crossing and Shove Movement Accident

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is investigating a recent switching accident that resulted in a crew member fatality.

Based on FRA’s preliminary investigation, a conductor with 18 years of service was fatally injured when the tank car he was riding to provide point protection for a switching move was struck by a dump truck. The incident occurred at a private grade crossing in a steel plant as the train consist traveled southward.

The dump truck, traveling west, stopped at the private highway-rail grade crossing, then proceeded and collided with the car the conductor was riding, killing the conductor. It was nighttime, the yard was lighted, and the conductor had his lantern turned on.

Prior to the incident, the conductor was in communication with the engineer via radio. The private highway-rail grade crossing was equipped with passive warning devices and stop signs.

The purpose of this Safety Bulletin, which is informal in nature, is to ensure the railroad industry, including railroad employees, are aware of this recent accident that resulted in a fatality of an employee. As FRA completes its investigation, it may take additional actions with respect to this accident.


Although FRA’s investigation into this accident is ongoing, FRA notes the importance of ensuring pushing or shoving movements over highway-rail crossings are conducted safely, to include:

  • Proper training, periodic oversight, and application of appropriate railroad operating rules when determining whether the track is clear, and
  • Proper job briefings and communications between assigned crewmembers during pushing or shoving movements.

FRA requests that railroads review this Safety Bulletin with employees to increase awareness of the dangers of pushing and shoving movements at highway-rail grade crossings. FRA also
reminds railroads of the need to ensure all individuals involved in pushing or shoving movements are: (1) properly trained and qualified on how to conduct those operations safely;
and (2) understand what “track is clear” means related to a highway-rail grade crossing.

Additionally, FRA reminds railroads and train crew members of the work of the Switching Operations Fatality Analysis (SOFA) Working Group, a voluntary, non-regulatory, workplace safety partnership formed to identify commonalities among fatalities that occur during switching operations. SOFA findings are available on FRA’s website.

View this bulletin in PDF form.