Voluntary installation of locomotive cameras by the major freight railroads has allowed the industry to dodge costly federal requirements, but regulators could still end up mandating cameras and audio recording equipment for train engines that pull both passengers and freight.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has proposed requiring that all lead locomotives on passenger trains install inward- and outward-facing cameras. It would require that the cameras record while the locomotive is in motion and that they retain the data in a “crashworthy memory module.”
The proposal, published on July 24, follows years of numerous fatal accidents involving both passenger and freight trains beginning as far back as 2005. While it doesn’t formally suggest mandating the regulation for freight trains, it does ask for comment on several questions, including whether it should consider requiring them for the freight railroads now or in the future.
In addition, while the agency is not proposing that railroads install audio recording devices, it’s asking for comment on whether it should require them in a final rule. “Accordingly, FRA makes clear that nothing proposed in this [notice of proposed rulemaking] would preclude a railroad from voluntarily installing audio recording devices in its locomotives.”
All railroads in Canada will be required to install inward-facing cameras on locomotives after a regulation is formally published in spring 2020, according to the Canadian Transportation Safety Board.
For the U.S. passenger industry, the FRA estimated the proposed costs for installing cameras at approximately $32 to $35 million over a period of 10 years. But for the freight railroads – if the FRA was to consider a requirement for the sector – would cost between $155 and $168 million over the same period. This cost, according to the FRA, “could outweigh its safety benefits.” In addition, “many freight railroads, including all Class I railroads, have already installed or are in the process of installing recording devices in their locomotives.”
The Association of American Railroads has confirmed that over 20,000 outward-facing cameras have been installed on freight and passenger locomotives, the FRA noted, with the Union Pacific Railroad in the process of installing them on over 2,000 locomotives.
Kansas City Southern Railway, an early adopter of inward-facing cameras in the freight industry, said having such cameras is a benefit for both security reasons (documenting trespassing or theft that may not involve employees) and for crew safety, specifically to monitor crew performance and their actions before an accident, according to the agency.
“FRA will continue to monitor freight railroads and their efforts to voluntarily install inward- and outward-facing recording devices, and also the overall safety records of the freight railroad industry, as it considers whether a future regulatory requirement is necessary,” FRA asserted.
Written comments on this proposed rule must be received on or before September 23.