ITASCA, Ill. – The National Safety Council (NSC) announced March 11 the appointment of Deborah A.P. Hersman as the president and CEO of the 100-year-old organization chartered by Congress to prevent unintentional injury and death. Hersman, who is currently the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), will be joining NSC at its headquarters in Itasca, Ill., in suburban Chicago.

“Debbie is a recognized leader in safety, with a frontline understanding of the value of protecting human life through thoughtful attention and management of risk,” said Jeff Woodbury, chairman of NSC board of directors. “Her proven leadership and expertise made her the ideal candidate to take the Council successfully into its second century.”

Hersman is acknowledged as a visionary and passionate safety leader who advocates for safety across all modes of transportation. At NTSB, the preeminent accident investigation organization, she has been on-scene for more than 20 major transportation accidents, chaired scores of NTSB hearings, forums and events, and regularly testifies before Congress.

Hersman was first appointed as a NTSB board member by President George Bush in 2004 and was reappointed to two additional five-year terms by President Barack Obama in 2009 and 2013. She was appointed chairman by President Obama in 2009, 2011 and 2013, with unanimous Senate confirmation votes. Previously, Hersman was a senior advisor to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation from 1999-2004 and served as staff director and senior legislative aide to former U.S. Rep. Bob Wise (D.-W.Va.) from 1992-1999.

Hersman has appeared at past United Transportation Union regional meetings as a guest speaker.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead an organization dedicated to saving lives and preventing injuries,” said Deborah Hersman. “The National Safety Council vision of ‘making our world safer’ has the potential to improve every workplace, every community and the way we travel every day.”

TULSA, Okla. — An engineer killed in a fiery train collision in the Oklahoma Panhandle last year suffered from serious vision problems for much of his life, underwent several corrective procedures in the years leading up to the crash and even complained that he couldn’t distinguish between red and green signals, a doctor told a federal oversight board Tuesday.

Despite his failing vision, the engineer continued driving freight trains and was guiding one of the ones that collided June 24, 2012, near town of Goodwell, killing him and two other railroad workers and causing about $15 million in damage.

Read the complete story at the Associated Press.


The National Transportation Safety Board has issued 12 new safety recommendations as a result of its investigation of the Sept. 30, 2010, collision of two freight trains near Two Harbors, Minn.

The NTSB recommendations were issued to the following organizations: the Federal Railroad Administration, Canadian National Railway, Union Pacific Railroad, Canadian Pacific Railway Limited, Kansas City Southern Railway Company, Norfolk Southern Railroad, American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, BNSF Railway, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the United Transportation Union. 

In a letter to SMART Transportation Division (UTU) President Mike Futhey, NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman requested that UTU “work with the Canadian National Railway and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, to develop and implement a non-punitive peer audit program for the Canadian National Railway’s North Division, focused on rule compliance and operational safety.

“The NTSB is vitally interested in this recommendation because it is designed to prevent accidents and save lives.”

“The safety of our members and all railroad employees, as well as the general public, is of the utmost concern to the UTU and we intend to work with CN and the BLET to implement the NTSB’s recommendation,” Futhey said.

Additional NTSB recommendations can be found here.

The NTSB is an independent federal agency charged by Congress with investigating every civil aviation accident in the United States and significant accidents in other modes of transportation, including railroad, highway, marine, and pipeline.

The NTSB determines the probable cause of the accidents and issues safety recommendations aimed at preventing future accidents. In addition, it carries out special studies concerning transportation safety and coordinates the resources of the federal government and other organizations to provide assistance to victims and their family members affected by major transportation disasters.

WASHINGTON — Observing that her five-year-old soccer-mom van contains safety technology more advanced than is integrated into many motor coaches, National Transportation Safety Board Chairperson Deborah Hersman March 30 chided Congress and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for dragging their feet on bus safety legislation and regulation.

Hersman testified before the Senate Transportation Subcommittee that available technology, if installed on motor coaches, could prevent many accidents and save many more lives. NTSB recommendations to this end have been ignored by Congress and federal regulators for years, Hersman said.

Safety advocate Joan Claybrook, who previously chaired the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told the subcommittee that the safety improvements advocated by the NTSB could be installed at the cost of five cents per bus ticket, based on annual bus ridership of about 750 million passengers.

Bus industry executives have been fighting for years to block mandated safety improvements, such as stronger roofs that won’t shear off or crush in accidents, and stronger windows, complaining the cost is too great.

Technology — such as electronic stability control to help prevent rollovers, cruise control that adjusts a vehicle’s speed to traffic conditions, and exits making it easier for passengers to escape after accidents — are examples of technology that exist “and it’s important that it be applied to the vehicles most in need of it,” Hersman testified.

The only safety improvements for motor coaches in the process of being mandated by the federal government are bans on texting while driving, the use of cellphones, installation of on-board recorders and installation of passenger seat belts — and even those rules have not be made final by regulators, the subcommittee was told.

The Department of Transportation testified that its attempt at requiring tougher driving training and testing standards have been challenged and blocked by courts. It has been more than six years since the DOT set out to redraft such rules.

Legislation was introduced in the Senate earlier this month to require much of what the NSTB advocates; but previous attempts as passage of similar legislation failed to gain sufficient votes in Congress.

To read more about that legislation, click on the following link: