Enhancing the Federal Railroad Administration's Oversight of Track Safety Inspections [open pdf - 236KB]
"This report presents the results of our audit of the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) oversight of track-related safety issues. The objective of this audit was to evaluate FRA's oversight of track safety on the Nation's freight rail lines. From 1998 through 2007, track defects were the second leading cause of train accidents, comprising 32 percent of the train accidents reported to FRA by the railroads. [...] Our report found that FRA's safety regulations for internal rail flaw testing did not require the railroads to report the specific track locations-milepost numbers or track miles-tested during these types of inspections. We also found FRA's inspection data system did not provide adequate information for determining the extent to which FRA's track inspectors have reviewed the railroads' records for internal rail flaw testing and visual track inspections to assess compliance with safety regulations. We recommended that FRA revise its track safety regulations for internal rail flaw testing to require the railroads to report all track locations (milepost numbers or track miles) covered during internal rail flaw testing. We also recommended that FRA revise its Track Safety Compliance Manual and inspection data system by including specific inspection activity codes for its track inspectors to report on whether the record reviews the inspectors conducted were for internal rail flaw testing or visual track inspections. FRA agreed with our recommendations and has either taken or planned corrective actions."
United States Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General: http://www.oig.dot.gov/