In 2015, there were nearly 12,000 reported accidents and incidents on our Nation’s railways. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) tracks the safety record of the rail industry in its public databases of accident and incident data. However, much of FRA’s safety data are self-reported by the rail industry, which poses challenges in ensuring their accuracy and completeness. We initiated this audit with the objective to assess FRA’s collection and management of railroad safety data. Specifically, we assessed FRA’s (1) guidance for reporting accident and incident data, and (2) audits for ensuring compliance with accident and incident reporting requirements.
We found that FRA’s accident reporting guidance is extensive and railroads’ compliance with 49 CFR Part 225 has improved, but violations and defects remain. In 2015 there were still over 100 Part 225 violations and more than 1,600 reporting defects identified by FRA inspectors. These defects are due in part to the complexity of FRA’s reporting requirements and data reporting systems, as well as a lack of routing training for reporting officers. In addition, we found that FRA performs audits of railroad compliance, auditing all Class I railroads every 2 years as required. However, FRA does not audit all non-Class I railroads as frequently as required, and lacks standard audit procedures and training for Part 225 compliance audits.
We made seven recommendations to help FRA improve oversight of railroad safety data reporting. FRA concurred with five of our recommendations and partially concurred with the two remaining recommendations. Based on FRA’s response, we consider all recommendations resolved but open pending completion of planned actions.