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Audit Reports

Date

FRA Has Taken Steps To Improve Safety Data Reporting, but Lacks Standard Procedures and Training for Compliance Audits

Requested By
Self-Initiated
Project ID
ST2017045
File Attachment
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.

Recommendations

Closed on
No. 1 to FRA
Update reporting guidance so users can more efficiently and accurately identify reporting requirements for different accident and incident types and better understand the definitions of terms used on reporting forms.
Closed on
No. 2 to FRA
Implement routine or Web-accessible training or other outreach to improve how information is provided to railroad reporting officers and enhance their understanding of key reporting requirements and common reporting errors.
Closed on
No. 3 to FRA
Develop and implement a standard method for identifying and listing railroads in each FRA Region subject to 49 CFR Part 225 requirements.
Closed on
No. 4 to FRA
Develop and implement procedures for tracking 49 CFR Part 225 audits of non-Class I railroads and identifying entities exempt from 49 CFR Part 225 reporting requirements.
Closed on
No. 5 to FRA
Establish a risk-based prioritization for auditing non-Class I railroads every 5 years. Part of the prioritization process should include determining whether any higher-risk non-Class I railroads should be audited more frequently.
Closed on
No. 6 to FRA
Formalize the 49 CFR Part 225 audit process with written guidance that identifies basic procedures, standards of evidence, and common sources of information, along with a process to update these standards and reevaluate audit priorities or scope when necessary.
Closed on
No. 7 to FRA
Develop and initiate regular training to FRA staff responsible for 49 CFR Part 225 audits and establish a procedure to update the training when necessary.