Rail Recommendations Reassessments

Transportation safety in Canada's rail sector continues to see positive movement. Of the 16 outstanding rail recommendations reassessed in 2012, four progressed to "fully satisfactory" and 11 remained unchanged.

Fully Satisfactory Recommendations

In 2001, the Board recommended that Transport Canada (TC) and the Railway Association of Canada ensure that maintenance standards and practices address the level of risks in heavy tonnage "other than main tracks" (R01-04). To ensure railway personnel consistently and accurately assess track conditions, TC approved the new Track Safety Rules, which come into effect on May 25, 2012.

Following a 2004 derailment in Whitby, Ontario, the Board recommended that TC work with the Railway Association of Canada to implement rail traffic control protocols and training that will recognize periods of high workload and make safety paramount (R06-01). In collaboration with industry stakeholders, TC has evaluated the approaches at both Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific and concluded that the industry has developed satisfactory processes for predicting and recognizing periods of high workload as experienced by rail traffic controllers.

In Canada, the railway industry did not track wheel sets or the date they were removed from original cars. Due to incomplete product recalls, the Board recommended that TC ensure that railways adopt procedures and technologies to track all wheel sets (R08-02). Railways have since begun using ID tags and an electronic system to track wheel sets, which will substantially reduce or eliminate the underlying safety deficiency.

In 2009, the Board noted CN's inefficient use of safety management systems and recommended that it take effective action to identify and mitigate risks to safety, and that TC require CN to do so (R09 03). This recommendation led CN to improve its risk assessment practices and safety culture, resulting in a decrease in non-main track derailments, employee injuries and crossing accidents. TC has also revised its guidelines on safety management systems and developed additional tools to help railways improve their safety management systems.

Unchanged Recommendations

Occurrences at railway crossings continue to pose safety risks. In 2009, the Board made recommendations for improving the visibility of emergency contact signage (R09 02), implementing standards for low ground clearance advance warning signs (R09 04) and assessing the effectiveness of vehicle collision defenses along the Quebec-Windsor corridor (R09 01). While TC is working toward making progress on the Grade Crossing Regulations and advance warning highway signs, it is not yet known when or if proposed regulations and signs will be implemented. TC has deferred railway crossing safety assessments of the Quebec-Windsor corridor to rail companies.

Following a 1999 occurrence, the Board identified a need for locomotive data recorders to include on board voice recording systems (R03-02). In March 2012, TC referred the issue to the Advisory Council on Railway Safety, which is expected to make a recommendation within a year. In 2000, the Board also signaled a concern regarding the widespread practice of crew members not calling signals effectively and made a recommendation for implementation of additional backup safety defences (R00 04). This safety deficiency has yet to be addressed and continues to pose a threat to the public, as evidenced by several recent occurrences, including R12T0038, R10V0038, R11Q0011, R09V0230 and R11E0063. 1.

Over the past 11 years, the Board has made several other recommendations, including those on grade crossing regulations (R01 05), ground hazard research (R07 03), non-pressurized tank car construction standards (R07 04) and tank car stub sill failures (R10 01). While TC has made some progress towards addressing these files, regulatory delays continue to allow these safety deficiencies to persist.

See the Rail recommendations for more details.

Recommendation Past Rating New Rating Progress Issue
R91-01 Satisfactory Intent Satisfactory Intent Unchanged Right of way access control
R93-11 Satisfactory in Part Satisfactory in Part Unchanged Trucks transporting dangerous goods stopping at crossings
R00-03 Satisfactory Intent Unsatisfactory Worse Immediate reporting of operational delays
R00-04 Satisfactory in Part Satisfactory In Part Unchanged Consistent recognition of signals
R01-04 Satisfactory Intent Fully Satisfactory Better Heavy tonnage other than main tracks
R01-05 Satisfactory Intent Satisfactory Intent Unchanged Grade crossing regulations
R03-02 Satisfactory in Part Satisfactory in Part Unchanged Locomotive voice recorders
R06-01 Satisfactory in Part Fully Satisfactory Better Rail traffic control workload
R07-03 Satisfactory Intent Satisfactory Intent Unchanged Ground hazard research
R07-04 Satisfactory Intent Satisfactory Intent Unchanged Non-pressurized tank car construction standards
R08-02 Satisfactory Intent Fully Satisfactory Better Tracking railcar wheel sets
R09-01 Satisfactory Intent Satisfactory Intent Unchanged Safety inspections of level crossings
R09-02 Satisfactory Intent Satisfactory Intent Unchanged Emergency contact signage at railway crossings
R09-03 Satisfactory Intent Fully Satisfactory Better TC safety management systems oversight and CN’s risk assessment practices
R09-04 Satisfactory Intent Satisfactory Intent Unchanged Low ground clearance signs at railway crossings
R10-01 Satisfactory Intent Satisfactory Intent Unchanged Tank car stub sill failures
The investigations into occurrence numbers R12T0038 and R11E0063 are currently underway and have not yet been made public.