Rail transportation safety recommendation R18-02

 Recommendation R18-02 in PDF [183 KB]

Assessment of the response to TSB Recommendation R18-02

Training and qualification standards for railway employees in safety-critical positions

Background

On 17 June 2016, at about 2335 Eastern Daylight Time, the Canadian National Railway Company (CN) remote control locomotive system 2100 west industrial yard assignment was performing switching operations at the south end of CN's MacMillan Yard, which is in the Concord industrial district of Vaughan, Ontario. The assignment was pulling 72 loaded cars and 2 empty cars southward from the yard onto the York 3 main track in order to clear the switch at the south end of the Halton outbound track to gain access to the west industrial lead track (W100) switch. The assignment helper attempted to stop the assignment to prepare to reverse into track W100, in order to continue switching for customers. However, the assignment continued to move. It rolled uncontrolled for about 3 miles and reached speeds of up to 30 mph before stopping on its own at about Mile 21.1 of the York Subdivision. There were no injuries. There was no release of dangerous goods and no derailment.

The Board concluded its investigation and released report R16T0111 on 27 June 2018.

TSB Recommendation R18-02 (June 2018)

The Railway Employee Qualification Standards Regulations came into force over 31 years ago, in 1987. Since that time, there have been significant operational changes in the rail industry, including the following:

  • The size of crews has been reduced.
  • Remote control locomotive system (RCLS) operations have been widely implemented.
  • An accelerated training program has been used to qualify unionized crews.
  • The periodic use of management crews has become more widely implemented.

Under the current regulations, locomotive engineers (LEs) are required to receive recurrent training in locomotive operation and train handling. Operating a locomotive is a complex task. LEs are trained to recognize the characteristics of the train they are operating, such as length, tonnage, and weight distribution within the train. They must also be familiar with the characteristics of the territory (i.e., undulating terrain, grade, and curvature) in which they are operating. LEs must anticipate the train's response and must adapt its operation to negotiate changes in terrain as well as to comply with signal indications and rail traffic controller (RTC) instructions.

In Canada, conductors normally operate remote control locomotive systems (RCLS) yard assignments, using a Beltpack, within rail yards. These assignments can enter the main track to take up head room to assist with switching operations. Conductors can also operate transfers on the main track for distances of up to 20 miles at speeds of up to 15 mph, with no tonnage or train length restrictions. Conductors receive little training in locomotive operation or train handling, and the current regulations do not require such training.

In this occurrence, the RCLS assignment crew members were aware of the assignment's length and weight. However, they did not fully understand the effect of these factors on train handling while descending a 0.70% grade with only locomotive independent brakes available to control the assignment. Consequently, the assignment rolled uncontrolled on the main track for about 3 miles and reached speeds of up to 30 mph before stopping on its own at about Mile 21.1 of the York Subdivision.

Since 2002, the TSB has conducted 6 investigations (including this occurrence) that were directly related to deficiencies in operating crew training and/or related gaps in the regulations.Footnote 1

Although sections 25 to 27 of the Railway Safety Management System Regulations, 2015 cover some aspects of crew training, they do not require individual plans and methods for each position and do not prescribe the training requirements to qualify for each position. Consequently, the approach varies among railways. For example, Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) does not include RCLS operators in its plan, whereas CN does. Significant gaps remain in the following areas:

  1. Qualification standards
    • There is no independent regulatory oversight for the qualification of railway employees in safety-critical positions in Canada.
    • There is no practical training required for requalification of LEs, transfer hostlers, or conductors.
    • The Canadian regulations contain qualification standards for on-job training instructors for LEs and transfer hostlers, but no requirement for on-job training instructors for conductors or foremen.
    • There is no occupational category and no corresponding training or requalification requirements for RTCs.
    • There is no operational category for RCLS operators, nor do the regulations require employees in any operational category to receive training specific to RCLS or to requalify in RCLS operations.
    • There are no qualification standards for contract instructors (trainers) who are not company employees.
  2. Graduated qualification
    • The regulations contain no graduated qualification system for occupational categories, except for unionized LEs, company LE on-job training instructors, and transfer hostler candidates.
  3. Conductor training
    • Conductors can operate RCLS assignments as transfers on the main track for distances of up to 20 miles at speeds of up to 15 mph, with no tonnage or train length restrictions and no training in locomotive operation or train handling.
  4. Management crew training and experience
    • Management crews do not have to meet the same requirements for duration of training, number of trips, and experience as unionized staff.
    • Management crews may operate trains over any subdivision without having adequate familiarization training.
  5. Regulatory oversight
    • The regulations contain no guidance outlining requirements for course training material, test content, or test delivery for railway employees in safety-critical positions.
    • Although TC is provided with railway training programs, it does not assess the adequacy of the training and provides no further oversight with regard to the training of railway employees in safety-critical positions.
    • There are no regulatory requirements for mandatory familiarization or refresher training for any of the operational categories when railway employees in safety-critical positions return to work after a layoff.

TC has recognized the need to update the regulations on several occasions:

  • In 2003, TC indicated that it was planning to review the regulations in fall 2003.
  • In 2005, TC acknowledged that the regulations were outdated and should be revised; it considered creating a working group to revise the regulations.
  • In 2009, TC approved the Rules Respecting Minimum Qualification Standards for Railway Employees, which were to come into force once the regulations were repealed. However, to date, the Rules are not in place, as the regulations have not been repealed.

The 2017–2018 TC Departmental Plan highlighted that TC planned to strengthen the regulatory regime by updating the Railway Employee Qualification Standards Regulations, but there has been little progress to date.

Consequently, the regulations have not kept pace with the significant changes in railway operations over the years. The Rail Safety Management System Regulations, 2015, requiring railways to have processes for managing knowledge, cover some of the training elements. However, gaps in training remain. If the gaps in the current Railway Employee Qualification Standards Regulations are not addressed, railway employees in safety-critical positions may not be sufficiently trained or experienced to perform their duties safely. Additionally, Transport Canada will not be able to conduct effective regulatory oversight and enforcement of training programs. Therefore, the Board recommends that

the Department of Transport update the Railway Employee Qualification Standards Regulations to address the existing gaps for railway employees in safety-critical positions related to training, qualification and re-qualification standards, and regulatory oversight.
Transportation Safety Recommendation R18-02

Transport Canada's response to Recommendation R18-02 (September 2018)

Transport Canada agrees with rail safety recommendation (R18-02). Railway safety is a key priority for the Department. To that end, the Department has been doing work in the area of training and qualifications because it recognizes that rail employees must have the necessary qualifications to perform the duties of their safety-critical positions, that they demonstrate those qualifications prior to undertaking those duties, and that those qualifications are monitored on an ongoing basis. To address the identified gaps, the Department is undertaking work in multiple areas, including considering amendments to the regulatory framework as well as ensuring effective oversight of training and qualification requirements.

In the interim and to further reduce the risk, the Department is planning to publish a guideline on the use of remote control locomotive systems in the rail industry in December 2018. This guideline will be informed by a comprehensive study of remote control locomotive systems which the department conducted. This study looked at areas such as qualification/training/experience, mitigating measures, mainline operation, train speed, and crew size. The study was completed in spring 2018, and included outcomes from rail industry site visits. The results were presented to members of the Advisory Council on Railway Safety. The study recommended the introduction of training and qualification standards for Remote Control Operators.

With regards to regulatory development work, Transport Canada is planning consultations with industry stakeholders throughout 2018/2019 to ensure the employee training and qualification policy framework is up-to-date, effective, and reflective of the needs of an evolving and dynamic railway industry. This is especially crucial given the wide diversity of railway companies and the complexities involved in designing a training and qualification regime that can be effectively implemented and overseen. The Department intends to publish the regulatory proposal in Canada Gazette, Part I, during the first quarter of 2020, followed by a 30-day final comment period from stakeholders.

In the interim, Transport Canada will continue to oversee railway companies' compliance with existing training and qualification requirements through a combination of inspection activities and Safety Management System Audits. Of note, the Railway Safety Management System Regulations, 2015, includes requirements for companies to have processes for managing knowledge. It also requires that companies ensure that the employees conducting duties essential to safe railway operations have the necessary skills and qualifications. The knowledge management process was one of the components audited in 2017-18 for Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian National Railway, and VIA Rail Canada. In response to audit findings, each railway submitted a corrective action plan.

Transport Canada shares the Transportation Safety Board's commitment to advancing the safety of Canada's transportation system and is committed to working with partners to further enhance the safety of Canada's railway system through improvements to the existing training and qualifications regime.

TSB assessment of Transport Canada's response to Recommendation R18-02 (November 2018)

Transport Canada (TC) agrees with the recommendation. TC recognizes that rail employees must have the necessary qualifications to perform the duties of their safety-critical positions, that they demonstrate those qualifications prior to undertaking those duties, and that those qualifications are monitored on an ongoing basis.

To address the gaps related to training, qualification and re-qualification standards for railway employees in safety-critical positions, TC is undertaking work in multiple areas, including possible amendments to the regulatory framework. TC will conduct consultations with industry stakeholders throughout 2018–19 to ensure that the employee training and qualification policy framework is up-to-date, effective, and reflective of the needs of the railway industry. TC plans to publish the regulatory proposal in the Canada Gazette, Part I, during the first quarter of 2020.

In the interim, TC plans to publish a guideline on the use of remote control locomotive systems in December 2018. This guideline will consider the results of its 2018 study on remote control locomotive systems that recommended the introduction of training and qualification standards for remote control operators.

TC will ensure effective oversight of training and qualification requirements through a combination of inspection activities and safety management system (SMS) audits. In 2017–18, TC audited the knowledge management process for Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian National Railway, and VIA Rail Canada. In response to the audit findings, each railway submitted a corrective action plan.

The Board is encouraged that TC recognizes that there are gaps in the training and qualification standards for employees in safety-critical positions and that it is actively working in a number of areas to address the gaps, including possible amendments to the regulatory framework. The Board assesses the response to the recommendation as having Satisfactory Intent.

Transport Canada's response to Recommendation R18-02 (February 2019)

To address this issue over the long-term, the Department is currently developing policy options to update the regulatory framework in order to address the gaps identified in this area while at the same time keeping pace with the evolving and dynamic railway industry. This is especially crucial given the wide diversity of railway companies and the complexities involved in designing a training and qualification regime that can be effectively implemented and overseen. Transport Canada consulted with CN and CP representatives in Fall 2018 to gain a better understanding of their training and qualifications regime. The Department will launch pre-consultations with stakeholders on a training and qualifications policy proposal in Spring/Summer 2019, with the intention of pre-publishing a regulatory proposal in Canada Gazette, Part I,in 2020.

In the interim and to further reduce the risk, the Department has developed a guideline on the use of remote control locomotive (RCL) systems in the rail industry. The intent of the guideline is to promote industry best practices and to provide federally-regulated railways, and those providing services to railways, with guidance in regard to the continued safe use of RCL. The guideline is informed by work conducted by Transport Canada from 2016-2018, which was presented to members of the Advisory Council on Railway Safety. TC examined areas such as qualification/training/experience, mitigating measures to reduce the risk of accidents or incidents, mainline operation, train speed and crew size. TC also conducted industry site visits (where operating procedures and training programs were observed), and reviewed Transportation Safety Board (TSB) occurrence data and United States regulatory requirements and guidance.

It is not the intent of the guideline to compare the safety of RCL and conventional switching approaches. Indeed, many of the recommendations found within the guideline would be equally applicable to either method of working. Building upon current industry best practices, the guideline recommends that railways take actions including establishing common standards to be implemented by all railway in two key areas: training and qualification of employees and RCL operation.

The guideline was circulated, in draft form, to members of the Advisory Council on Railway Safety in January 2019. A final version of the guideline is expected to be posted on Transport Canada's web site by March 31, 2019.

In the interim, Transport Canada will continue to oversee railway companies' compliance with existing training and qualification requirements through a combination of inspection activities and Safety Management System Audits. Of note, the Railway Safety Management System Regulations, 2015, includes requirements for companies to have processes for managing knowledge. It also requires that companies ensure that the employees conducting duties essential to safe railway operations have the necessary skills and qualifications. The knowledge management process was one of the components audited in 2017-18 for Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian National Railway, and VIA Rail Canada. In response to audit findings, each railway submitted a corrective action plan.

Transport Canada shares the Transportation Safety Board's commitment to advancing the safety of Canada's transportation system and is committed to working with partners to further enhance the safety of Canada's railway system through improvements to the existing training and qualifications regime.

Railway Association of Canada's response to Recommendation R18-02 (February 2019)

The new SMS 2015 Regulations (Section 25 to 27) includes requirements for Managing Knowledge for employees whose duties are essential to safe railway operations; as well as others who are authorized by the railway company to access the railway and whose activities may affect the safety of railway operations. This includes knowledge of “any of the railway company's procedures – including any procedure referred to in this Part – standards, instructions, bulletins or other internal documents that may affect railway safety and that the employee needs to know to carry out his or her duties safely.”

The regulation further requires railways to have a plan for ensuring that an employee has the skills, qualifications and knowledge; a method for verifying that an employee has the required skills, qualifications and the knowledge; a method for supervising an employee who performs any of the duties and a method for verifying that a person has the knowledge.

It is not necessary for the Railway Employee Qualification Standards Regulations to be updated or for regulations to prescribe the specific qualifications that TSB is describing as the performance based / continuous improvement nature of SMS ensures that companies are reviewing, improving and implementing programs that ensure employees have the necessary skills, qualification and knowledge. If the TSB or TC identify a specific topic that they believe needs to be addressed, it should be raised with the relevant railway company, so they can evaluate it and address it through SMS, if needed.

TSB reassessment of the responses to Recommendation R18-02 (March 2019)

Transport Canada (TC) is developing policy options to update the regulatory framework to address the gaps identified in training and qualifications standards. In Fall 2018, TC consulted with Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) and Canadian National Railway (CN) representatives to better understand their training and qualifications regime. In Spring/Summer 2019, TC will conduct pre-consultations with stakeholders on a training and qualifications policy proposal. In 2020, TC plans to pre-publish the regulatory proposal in the Canada Gazette, Part I. The TSB supports the use of regulations to establish specific training and qualification standards for railway employees in safety-critical positions to ensure consistent application and use across the railway industry.

To further reduce risk, TC developed a draft guideline on the use of remote control locomotive (RCL) systems in the rail industry. Based on the work conducted by TC between 2016 and 2018, this guideline promotes industry best practices and provides guidance with respect to the safe use of RCL. The guideline recommends that railways take actions including establishing and implementing common standards in the training and qualification of employees and in RCL operation. In January 2019, the draft guideline was circulated to members of the Advisory Council on Railway Safety. A final version of the guideline is expected to be published in April 2019.

In the interim, TC continued its oversight of railway companies relating to compliance with existing training and qualification requirements through inspection activities and SMS audits. In 2017-18, the knowledge management process was one of the SMS components audited for  CP, CN and VIA Rail Canada. In response to the audit findings, each railway submitted a corrective action plan.

The Board is encouraged that TC is actively working in a number of areas to address the gaps in the training and qualifications regime, including the initial work to develop the regulatory proposal. The Board assesses the response to Recommendation R18-02 as having Satisfactory Intent.

Next TSB action

The TSB will monitor TC's progress on its regulatory proposal and will monitor the railway industry for related safety actions.

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