Federal Railroad Administration announces safety advisory following East Palestine derailment
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued a safety advisory on Tuesday suggesting that railroads evaluate their use of wayside detectors used for early identification of defects affecting rolling stock.
The FRA had previously recognized the value of such devices when appropriately installed, operated and maintained by qualified persons and pointed to existing industry standards and recommendations that railroads should implement into their inspection and maintenance practices.
Despite there being no federal regulations requiring railroads to use hot bearing detectors (HBDs), or any other regulations related to the inspection, calibration and maintenance of this equipment, this is one of several steps in advancing rail safety.
To enhance the mechanical reliability of rolling stock and the safety of railroad operations, the guidance urges that railroads who use HBD do the following:
- Evaluate the thresholds for inspections based on HBD data
- Consider the use of real-time trend analyses of HBD data as a criterion for inspection
- Ensure the proper training and qualification of personnel responsible for the calibration, inspection, and maintenance of HBDs
- Ensure proper inspection of rolling stock with HBD alerts
- Improve the safety culture of their organization, particularly as it pertains to operational decisions based on HBD data
This action was prompted by the FRA's ongoing investigations of several derailments, including the one in East Palestine, where burnt journal bearings were found to have played a role.
Journal bearings are critical components of freight cars that serve to transfer the weight of the car and its cargo to the axle while allowing the axle and its wheels to rotate.
Each derailment cited in the advisory illustrate the potential consequences of derailments involving hazardous materials even if the train does not meet the threshold of being classified as a "high-hazard flammable train" or "high hazard flammable unit train."
Both the FRA and NTSB are investigating the East Palestine derailment. Preliminary information indicates that the train passed at least three wayside detectors before derailing.