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Only a small fraction of the nation’s railroads participate in a voluntary, confidential system designed to improve railroad safety by collecting reports from employees that describe unsafe conditions, says a U.S. Government Accountability Office Report issued Wednesday.
The report says just 23 of the nearly 800 railroads in the U.S. participate in the Confidential Close Call Reporting System referred to as C3RS.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, which administers the C3RS program in partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, errors in human factors accounted for nearly 40% of train and rail equipment accidents on average between 2002 and 2021.
Railroads that participate in the program cited as its primary benefits increased safety information to implement corrective actions, and an improved safety culture.
They said challenges in complying with the program are a lack of important deals in the reports they receive and an insufficient total number of reports.
The GAO report says selected railroads cited as reasons for not participating their having similar internal safety-reporting systems and concerns about the program’s confidentiality.
The GAO recommends that the FRA, in collaboration with NASA, make C3RS safety information, including broader safety trends, more accessible to the wider railroad industry, and that the FRA ensure that the program’s success stories are effectively communicated and shared with the wider industry.
C3RS was established as a pilot program in 2007, and fully implemented in 2014. The GAO conducted its audit of the program from June 2021 to November.