Language selection

News release

TSB preliminary statistics show increase in number of occurrences for air, pipeline, and railway transportation in 2021 compared to 2020

Gatineau, Quebec, 25 February 2022 — The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) today released a summary of preliminary transportation occurrence statistics from 2021, which points to an increase in the number of accidents / incidents for the Air, Pipeline, and Rail sectors over the previous year. This increase was likely influenced by the easing of COVID-19 restrictions for the transportation industry, which resulted in fewer pandemic related disruptions in service than in 2020. 

Figure 1. 2021 transportation accidents reported to the TSB (preliminary data)
2021 transportation accidents reported to the TSB (preliminary data)
Data table
  2021 2020 Five-year average
Air accidents 190 170 214
Marine accidents 214 264 281
Pipeline accidents 2 0 1
Rail accidents 1038 988 1079

Air transportation

In 2021, the overall number of air transportation accidents and incidents increased in comparison to the previous year. In part this was due to a gradual resumption of commercial air transportation activity and a higher-than-average amount of activity in certain domains, like aerial firefighting.

The number of aviation accidents (190) reported to the TSB in 2021 was 12% higher than in 2020 (170), but about 11% lower than the five-year average of 214. There were 22 fatal accidents and 31 fatalities in 2021, compared with 12 fatal accidents and 16 fatalities in 2020. Also, accidents involving commercial operators increased from 54 in 2020 to 62 in 2021 (an increase of approximately 15%), while those involving private operations (by recreational operators, holders of a private operator registration document, or others) increased from 114 to 127 (an increase of approximately 11%).

There were 495 aviation incidents reported to the TSB in 2021. This number represents an increase from the previous year (421), but is still below the five-year average (794).

Marine transportation

In 2021, 214 marine accidents were reported to the TSB, below the 2020 total of 264 and about 24% below the five-year average of 281. The number of fishing vessels involved in accidents (shipping accidents and accidents aboard ship) in 2021 (66) was substantially lower than the previous year (89) and the five-year average (93). However, six of the eight fatal marine occurrences and eight of the 11 marine fatalities involved the commercial fishing industry. Commercial fishing safety has been on the TSB Watchlist since its inception in 2010.

Additionally, 859 marine incidents were reported to the TSB in 2021. This number represents a 7% decrease from 2020 (925) and a 4% decrease from the five-year average of 892. Most (85%) reportable incidents were categorized as “total failure of machinery or technical system.”

Pipeline transportation

There were two pipeline accidents in 2021; this followed a year with no accidents (in 2020) and is above the average of one accident per year from 2016 to 2020. The first accident in January 2021 (P21H0003) involved a pipeline rupture that released papermaking process water into the Saint John River watershed in Edmundston, New Brunswick. The second accident in October 2021 (P21H0143) occurred when a piece of farming equipment with a blade attachment towed by a tractor struck and breached a pipeline, resulting in the release of hydrocarbon gas near McAuley, Manitoba.

A total of 112 pipeline incidents were reported to the TSB in 2021, well above the total of 83 in 2020 and the five-year average of 95.

The number of pipeline occurrences involving a release of product was slightly higher in 2021 (23) than in 2020 (18), but still well below the five-year average (40). Of the 23 occurrences in the “product released” category in 2021, 13 involved a release of hydrocarbon gas, four involved HVP or LVP hydrocarbons, and six involved other products.

Forty-nine percent of pipeline incidents in 2021 involved geotechnical/hydrotechnical/environmental activity (55 incidents), compared with 31% in 2019 and the five-year average of 22%.

Railway transportation

Overall, 1038 railway accidents were reported to the TSB in 2021 – an increase compared to 2020 (988), but a 4% decrease from the five-year average of 1079. There were 60 rail-related fatalities reported in 2021, the same as in the previous year and below the five-year average of 66.

Forty-two of the 2021 fatalities involved trespassers (70% of all rail fatalities), compared with 40 (67%) in 2020 and the five-year average of 42 (64%). Crossing accident fatalities decreased slightly to 16 in 2021 from 18 in 2020 and from the five-year average of 21. The TSB is researching seasonal patterns in crossing accidents to better understand some of the factors that may be contributing to these occurrences.

Among all railway accidents reported to the TSB in 2021, 85 involved dangerous goods (DG), a slight increase from the 2020 total of 82, but below the five-year average of 119. Two accidents in 2021 resulted in a DG release.

There were 34 accidents involving an uncontrolled movement and 13 incidents categorized as “uncontrolled movement of rolling stock” in 2021, compared with 30 and 19 respectively in 2020 and the five-year averages of 44 and 15 respectively.

Additionally, 193 railway incidents were reported to the TSB in 2021 – representing a 15% decrease from 2020 (228) and a 25% decrease from the five-year average (259).  More than half (109) of all railway incidents in 2021 were categorized as “movement exceeds limits of authority” incidents, 40 fewer than in 2020 and 27 fewer than the five‑year average of 136.

Note that the statistics presented above reflect the TSB modal occurrence databases at 17 January 2022. Since the occurrence data are constantly being updated in the live database, the statistics may change slightly over time.

For more information, please refer to the detailed statistical tables in the December 2021 transportation occurrence statistics for air, marine, pipeline, and rail transportation. Note that data for the 2021 period can be found under Year to date (December).

The TSB will release its complete and final statistical reports for 2021 in the spring; these will include accident rates and a more thorough analysis of the updated data (which may vary slightly from this preliminary data).

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-994-8053