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In addition to hazardous materials, witnesses today will be exploring such specific problem areas as grade crossing accidents, employee safety, and state involvement in safety enforcement. The Committee also is interested in steps which the industry has taken outside the realm of regulation to enhance its own safety through research, employee training, and emergency response.
I will now call the first group of witnesses, a panel representing the Department of Transportation, headed by Mr. John Sullivan, FRA Administrator.
STATEMENT OF JOHN M. SULLIVAN, ADMINISTRATOR, FEDER-
Senator LONG. We are pleased to have you here today. We will hear your statement and the suggestions of your associates.
Mr. SULLIVAN. Yes, sir.
Mr. Chairman, on my right is Mr. Joseph Walsh, Associate Administrator, Office of Safety, Federal Railroad Administration. On my left is Kenneth Piersen, Deputy Director of Motor Carrier Safety, and on his left, Mr. Lee Santman, Director, Materials Transportation Bureau.
I appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today on FRA's authorization bill. The bill contains several amendments designed to improve FRA enforcement capabilities. With your permission, I will give you a very brief statement highlighting elements of my prepared statement, which I would like to submit for the record. We are requesting an authorization of $28 million for 1981, 15.8 million of which is for salaries and related expenses of field personnel, $5.9 million for the Automated Track Inspection Program; $4.3 million for salaries and related expenses of safety headquarters personnel together with data gathering and dissemination, planning and evaluation activities and administration of the Grants-inaid program; and $2 million for grants to states. In fiscal year 1982, we are requesting authorization of such sums as may be necessary. In the past, $10 million per year has been authorized for Safety Research and Development-R&D-undertaken pursuant to the Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970, while most R&D has been funded under the DOT Act. The Department recommends that the specific R&D authorization be deleted from the Safety Act and reliance be placed on the DOT Act for R&D authorization.
The total number of reportable railroad accidents decreased from 11,333 in 1978 to a projected 9,917 in 1979. The projected number of accidents in 1979 is based on 11 months of actual data. Trackcaused accidents account for 49 percent of the total in 1979.
There is a correlation between profitability and accident rates. The increased number of accidents attributed to defects in way or structure over recent years compared with other causes provides clear evidence of an undermaintained and deteriorating rail plant.
The industry faces a capital shortfall over the decade of 1976 to 1985 of between $13 and $16 billion.
Return on invested capital is among the lowest of major industries. The difficulties in earning adequate return on existing investment stem in part from federal regulation which has constrained management's ability to adjust rates, merge corporate entities, provide new services, and abandon obsolete facilities and services. The Administration supports the efforts of the Committee to free the industry from outmoded constraints that keep the railroads from using new marketing techniques they need to compete effectively. While we agree that the financial condition of the railroad industry is a basic problem behind the poor safety performance of many carriers, the poor financial condition of the industry makes all the more important FRA insistence that minimum safety conditions be met. Otherwise the industry is tempted to put its money in the areas with high revenue benefits and rely on good luck to keep down the number of accidents.
Our total civil penalty collections for 1979 set a new record of over $7.5 million. Since October 1977, FRA has collected $5 million more in civil penalties than it did in its first ten years of existence. The most impressive achievement has been in the area of hazardous materials.
In 1979 we collected $634,000 for 258 violations. This is over twice the amount of all fines and penalties for violations of the hazardous materials regulations in the previous 12 years of FRA history. Recently, FRA has deliberately focused resources of a few carriers with poor safety records. This method of concentrated monitoring has produced dramatic results that will enhance future enforcement efforts.
System-wide assessments of three railroads were completed in 1979, the Rock Island, Illinois Central Gulf, and Louisville-Nashville Railroads. A number of improvements were made by these carriers following FRA analysis. Our assessment of the L&N in conjunction with Emergency Order 11, led to a 40-percent reduction in the number of accidents on that line. While L&N reported 465 train accidents in the first seven months of 1978, the railroad reported only 285 accidents in the first seven months of 1979.
Over the same period, reports of damages were down from 14.8 million to 7.3. Fatalities in 1978 fell from 17, 16 of which were at Waverly, Tennessee, to none reported in 1979. Injuries fell from 74 to six.
In late 1978 the Congress mandated a study of the size, weight, and length of freight cars under Section 10 of the Authorization Act of that year. The study has now been transmitted to the Congress by the Secretary of Transportation. In summary, we found that the growth in car size has not had a significant net impact on fatalities resulting from railroad operations. However, there is no question that heavier axle loadings are aggravating deferred maintenance of track and roadbed and contributing to the overall accident picture. Proper responses to this problem appear to fall into two categories. First, track maintenance and internal rail inspections must keep pace with dynamic loadings, heavier cars will necessitate heavier rail sections, continuous welded rail, and better attention to roadbed.
It would not be feasible or prudent for the Federal Government to control maintenance and rehabilitation programs. The FRA can only insist that realistic standards for track and inspection procedures be observed.
A second need is the performance of certain bad actor cars, particularly covered hopper cars. In the future we hope to be able to announce a cooperative venture which will isolate the critical design problems and develop a program for addressing those cars most in need of attention. Both rail management and rail labor have agreed to participate in that effort, Mr. Chairman.
This completes my statement.
Mr. Bob Parsons, Associate Administrator for R&D is here today. I would like to have him spend a few minutes explaining the findings on the cars-size study to the Committee. I have these other gentlemen with me who will respond to questions after Mr. Parsons' presentation, if that meets with your approval.
Mr. PARSONS. Good morning, Senator Long. It's my pleasure to give a brief highlight of the study directed by the Congress through Public Law 95-575 to determine the relationship of the size, weight and length of railroad cars to the safety and efficiency of rail transportation. The approach used in the study is similar to that used in most of our safety research.
We involved both labor and managment of the Assocation of American Railroads in the actual conduct of the study. We used the FRA accident files, AAR universal machine language equipment register, ICC statistics, and our own research. For example, we took information from recent tank car research, our locomotive research on AMTRAK's SDP 40 and E60 locomotive field testing, and some of our car type statistical analysis.
A highlight of the study from our perspective was a survey conducted by the United Transportation Union. About 1000 workers were surveyed in a questionnaire, wherein 16 in-depth questions were asked of those employees.
It's gratifying to see the amount of time these individuals took in preparing the responses. That material was synopsized and is contained in the report.
At the same time the industry was surveyed through the AAR. Major railroads were asked questions with regard to increasing loads and decreasing loads on the maintenance and operational aspects of their equipment.
We have summarized the 11 major findings in the attached chart No. 1.
SUMMARY OF MAJOR FINDINGS
1. Size, weight and length of cars in increasing—particularly hazardous material
2. Heavier cars do increase the rate of track deterioration-more derailments. 3. Profitable railroads have offset deleterious effects-in regions of high traffic densities.
4. No major levels of fatalities can be directly attributed to larger cars.
5. The 100-ton cars have a comparable rate of derailment to the smaller cars-on a volume of product moved basis.
6. The potential for improvement in derailment rates is concentrated in three car types-for both accidents and incidents.
7. Marginal railroads are not able to keep pace with existing rates of track deterioration.
8. High cost associated with reducing maximum allowable load in cars.
9. Biggest concern-Future prospect of epidemic of hazardous material catastrophies on "weak link" interchange carriers.
10. Past work has developed understandings, testing methods and candidates for significantly improving safety and economics.
11. Lack of immediate returns to railroads diminishes attractiveness of many options for improvement.
CHART NO. 1
Mr. PARSONS. This morning I would like to highlight five or six. The first finding is the size, weight, and length of cars is increasing, particularly hazardous material cars. I have a backup chart #2 that shows from about 1960 through the current period there has been a dramatic increase in the car-carrying capacity of the fleet. Senator LONG. Would you mind turning it back?
Mr. PARSONS. Yes, sir.
Senator LONG. Is that the average amount of weight carried per car?
Mr. PARSONS. No, sir, that is the potential weight, the capacity of the car.
Senator LONG. That is the capacity. It's moved up from about 45,000 to 80 tons.
Mr. PARSONS. Close to 80 tons, yes sir.
Senator LONG. 45 to 80 tons; is that it?
Senator LONG. Go ahead.
Mr. PARSONS. The amount actually carried was somewhat less than the car capacity in both cases.
Senator LONG. Liquefied gas, coal and petroleum, about 70 tons? Mr. PARSONS. Yes, sir, the growth of these particular hazardous products grew rapidly during the time period from 1960 to 1980. This is the reason for the concern. In about 1969, after this initial high-growth, we had our first large hazardous materials accident. Senator LONG. Yes.
Mr. PARSONS. The next finding I would like to discuss is that the profitable railroads have offset the effects of this increased weight and hazardous materials in regions of high traffic densities. Chart #3 contains a relative index of derailments of six railroads. You can see the-we have normalized the data-the best railroad
having an index of one. On this chart, a "15" would be a not-sofortunate railroad.
The study shows that the railroads that have the higher derailment rates are the ones that are economically in poor shape. The better railroads have put money into their track and their derailment rate reflects that.
The next finding is that we could not attribute any major level of fatalities directly to larger cars. The car-fatality rate is low. It's random and it's not in correlation with the weight of the vehicle. Injuries are a function of the configuration of the vehicle, such as the work force having trouble getting off and on some cars. But for fatalities, we couldn't find a correlation.
The next finding is that 100-ton cars have comparable rates of derailment to smaller cars, particularly if you make it on a volume basis. We ran different comparative analyses, using five or six variables. You can make anyone of these car-types look a little better than the rest, depending on the variable you use. But there is really not a significant difference between the large cars and the small cars with regard to derailments, particularly on a ton-mile basis. This is the point that the Administrator previously maintained. In this process we were somewhat hampered because the data had never been analysed to this degree before. However, three car types aid stand out as having a higher derailment rate than the rest of the car population. They were the covered hopper, general flat, and auto flat.
Perhaps the biggest concern for the future is the hazardousmaterials growth and possible poor track conditions on the weak or railroads during interchange. There are some railroads that still have marginal track. The point is that if we don't, through increased financing or through mergers with more healthy railroads, in some way get good track, and if hazardous material shipment continue to grow at the rate of the forecasts, we could have a problem in the future.
I want to take one moment to discuss solutions, as summarized in chart No. 4.
1. Stop crucial network track from deteriorating from present levels.
2. Concentrate safety improvement efforts in hazardous material transport and identified "Bad Actor" cars.
3. Find ways for compensating owners of cars used in interchange service for investing in improvements.
4. Maintain prudent restrictions on size, weight and length of cars while more specific guidelines and testing requirements are being put into place.
5. Convene a Government/industry/labor task force to analzye findings and recommendation, determine steps that are feasible and recommend plan of action.
CHART NO. 4
Mr. PARSONS. The first one, the main thrust of the Administration's bill, is to stop crucial track deterioration, pump some lifeblood into the industry, and concentrate on the three "bad actor" cars in the next year and come up with corrective action. In addition, there must be some way to compensate the healthy railroads for any improvements they put into cars that are interchanged. Once they put the safety equipment in service, and if it