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 describing unsafe conditions, said a U.S. Government Accountability Office report released Wednesday.
The report says only 23 of the nearly 800 railroads in the U.S. participate in the confidential close-call reporting system known as C3RS.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, which administers the C3RS program in partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, human error accounted for nearly 40% of train and rail equipment accidents on average between 2002 and 2021.
Railroads participating in the program cited increased safety information to implement corrective actions and an improved safety culture as its primary benefits.
They said the challenges of copying with the program are a lack of important trades in the reports they receive and an insufficient total number of reports.
The report says selected railroads cited as reasons for not participating that they have similar internal safety reporting systems and concerns about the program̵7;s confidentiality.
GAO recommends that FRA, in cooperation with NASA, make C3RS safety information, including broader safety trends, more accessible to the broader railroad industry, and that FRA ensure that the program’s success stories are effectively communicated and shared with the broader industry.
C3RS was established as a pilot program in 2007 and fully implemented in 2014. GAO conducted its review of the program from June 2021 through November.