U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) urged the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to immediately begin requiring critical safety monitoring systems that consist of inward and outward facing cameras in locomotives and operating railway cabs following the December 1 Metro-North derailment.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended inward facing cameras, which would monitor train crew performance, as well as outward facing cameras, which would be used to monitor crossing accidents and to recognize any deficiencies on the tracks in the wake of a 2008 railway collision in California.
The FRA has yet to take any regulatory action putting these recommendations in place. Schumer and Blumenthal explained that the recording devices may be used as a deterrent for dangerous behavior, such as falling asleep or texting and allow rail officials to monitor and correct such behavior before a tragic accident occurs. It could also be used after a rail crash to determine the cause of the crash. Neither outward or inward camera systems were present on the three Metro-North trains involved in accidents this year.
“I’m perplexed as to why, for the past few years, the FRA has been sitting on a list of life-saving recommendations that may very well prevent dangerous behavior onboard our commuter trains,” said Sen. Schumer. “We’ve now learned that the engineer in last week’s deadly derailment may have dozed off due to ‘highway hypnosis.’ Inward facing cameras may help railroad managers detect dangerous patterns amongst engineers ahead of time and also help investigators determine the cause of a future rail accident. It’s time the FRA gets onboard with the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendation.”
“I am astonished and appalled by delays in implementing these vital safety devices, risking danger and death,” said Blumenthal. “Audio and video recording tools can help prevent operator error and equipment failure, likely causes of the horrific Bronx tragedy. Failure to implement these life-saving steps is inexplicable and inexcusable. The FRA should immediately require Metro North and all railroads to implement these simple straightforward cost effective measures, sending a message that misconduct or mistakes will be recorded and that there will be accountability. I commend the FRA’s recent Emergency Order and hope that it can be expanded to include required installation of audio and visual recorders.”
The FRA has not yet moved forward with a nation-wide plan of implementing the NTSB’s recommendations. Currently, Amtrak locomotives have outward facing cameras that record signals and gate crossings, as does California’s Metrolink passenger rail. New York’s commuter rail lines, such as Metro North and the Long Island Rail Road, do not have inward or outward facing cameras.
Schumer and Blumenthal explained that the cameras would serve as a deterrent and would allow the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and other railroads to prevent train crew members from falling asleep or texting on the job by detecting those behaviors and disciplining employees. Additionally, the cameras would help investigators determine the cause of a crash by providing video evidence of what was occurring inside the train at the time of the accident. Schumer and Blumenthal went on to say that many freight and passenger railroads and city bus systems have installed cameras on public buses and similarly, the FRA should move forward with installing cameras on trains.