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USDOT OIG to FRA: Improve HOS, Fatigue Management Oversight Procedures

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) needs to improve procedures and planning as part of its oversight of railroad Hours of Service (HOS) compliance and passenger railroad fatigue management requirements, according to an audit report released late last month by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).

OIG conducts independent and objective reviews of the efficiency and effectiveness of USDOT programs and operations, as well as leads efforts to detect and prevent fraud, waste, abuse, and violations of law.

Recent data from the FRA “show that human factors, which include fatigue, remain the leading cause of reportable non-grade crossing train accidents,” reported the OIG, which noted that the rate of human factor-caused train accidents reached a 14-year high of 1.43 per million train miles in 2022.

“According to FRA, overseeing railroad fatigue management and compliance with federal HOS requirements is part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to address the adverse impacts and underlying causes of fatigue in the railroad industry,” the OIG said. “Given these factors, we assessed FRA’s (1) oversight of HOS compliance, (2) pursuit of civil penalties for HOS violations, and (3) oversight of passenger railroad compliance with fatigue management requirements.”

During its assessment, the OIG found that three FRA staff in two divisions—the HOS subject matter expert (SME) and two fatigue SMEs—oversee HOS compliance and fatigue management for the entire railroad industry. However, OIG said, “the oversight processes and analyses are not fully documented and there is no evidence of risk-based planning.” Specifically:

  • “[T]here are no detailed procedures documenting how FRA’s staff plan or perform oversight of HOS compliance or required analyses of passenger railroad work schedules and fatigue mitigation plans.”
  • “FRA also lacks guidance for many HOS violation penalty amounts as well as procedures for producing accurate Annual Enforcement Reports.”

As a result, the OIG said, “FRA does not have the procedures and accurate data necessary to effectively target its limited resources to the highest risk areas or adequately oversee different railroad types.”

The OIG’s report (download below) included 19 recommendations to improve FRA’s oversight of HOS and fatigue management. FRA concurred with them all and provided “appropriate actions” and completion dates, according to the OIG, which said it considered the recommendations “resolved but open, pending completion of planned actions.”

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