Menendez, Booker, Schumer Call for Stronger Regulations to Prevent Health-Related Rail Accidents

Menendez, Booker, Schumer Call for Stronger Regulations to Prevent Health-Related Rail Accidents

Lawmakers urge FRA to implement additional safety measures following reports that sleep apnea may have contributed to deadly Hoboken train crash

 
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Charles Schumer (D-NY) called on the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to implement safety measures that would prevent rail accidents related to health factors like sleep apnea.  New information indicates that sleep apnea may have contributed to the deadly Hoboken trail derailment in September that tragically took the life of a mother and injured more than 100.

“It has come to our attention that health factors—specifically sleep apnea—may have been a contributing factor in this incident,” the lawmakers wrote.  “Should these reports prove true, we urge the Federal Rail Administration to use all of the tools at its disposal to ensure any and all necessary measures are taken to improve safety as we head into a busy holiday season.”

Following September’s tragic derailment, Sens. Menendez and Booker were both briefed at the scene by FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg and have since remained in constant communication with FRA officials.  In a briefing, this week officials from FRA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) provided members of the New Jersey delegation an update on the federal investigation into the Hoboken crash.

“We owe it to these workers as well as the travelling public to provide the most thorough and timely safety guidance to ensure our constituents can depend on a safe and well-functioning transportation system,” the lawmakers continued.  “If necessary, we urge the FRA to utilize the rulemaking process, safety advisories, and other tools to inform and hold rail operators accountable in order to prevent these tragedies in the future.”

In October, Sens. Menendez and Booker called on U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx to investigate safety concerns at NJ Transit to determine whether there are more systemic problems at the agency that may impair safety following reports indicating large numbers of safety violations at NJ Transit and increased Federal inspections of the agency.

The full text of the letter is as follows:
 

November 18, 2016

Administrator Sarah Feinberg

Federal Railroad Administration

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE

Washington, DC 20590 
 

Dear Administrator Feinberg:
 

Thank you for your continued investigative efforts surrounding the September 29th New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit) derailment in Hoboken, New Jersey.  It has come to our attention that health factors—specifically sleep apnea—may have been a contributing factor in this incident. Should these reports prove true, we urge the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) to use all of the tools at its disposal to ensure any and all necessary measures are taken to improve safety as we head into a busy holiday season.

As you know, sleep apnea and fatigue have long been challenges in the transportation sector. Just this month, the National Transportation Safety Board included fatigue in its 2017-2018 “Most Wanted List” which highlights the most critical safety challenges in transportation. Sleep apnea was a factor in the 2013 Metro North accident that killed 4 and injured over 60 people, and it has long contributed to major trucking accidents across the country. One study sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that almost one third of commercial truck drivers have mild to severe sleep apnea. This health condition transcends transportation modes and has proven to have deadly consequences when transportation operators go undiagnosed or untreated. With this in mind, it is imperative that the FRA take immediate and deliberate action should the investigation reveal any screening or health education deficits that could have prevented the tragic incident in New Jersey.

Our nation’s transportation workers provide critical service to individuals and families commuting to school, work, and home. We owe it to these workers as well as the travelling public to provide the most thorough and timely safety guidance to ensure our constituents can depend on a safe and well-functioning transportation system. If necessary, we urge the FRA to utilize the rulemaking process, safety advisories, and other tools to inform and hold rail operators accountable in order to prevent these tragedies in the future.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

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