U.S. NTSB updates list of most wanted safety improvements

The United States National Transportation Safety Board (U.S. NTSB) recently unveiled its list of most wanted safety improvements for the transportation sector in 2019-2020.

Launched in 1990, the most wanted list serves as a primary advocacy tool to help save lives, prevent injuries and reduce property damage resulting from transportation accidents, U.S. NTSB officials said in a press release. In 2017, the U.S. NTSB changed it from an annual to biennial list to provide list developers and recipients more time to implement recommendations, some of which are longstanding safety issues the board believes continue to threaten the traveling public.

The 10 items on the 2019-20 list are:
• eliminate distractions;
• end alcohol and other drug impairment;
• ensure the safe shipment of hazardous materials;
• fully implement positive train control (PTC);
• implement a comprehensive strategy to reduce speeding-related crashes;
• improve the safety of certain aircraft flight operations;
• increase the implementation of collision avoidance systems in new highway vehicles;
• reduce fatigue-related accidents;
• screen for and treat obstructive sleep apnea; and
• strengthen occupant protection.

Hazmat Safety

In terms of hazmat safety, the NTSB is calling on the rail industry to meet existing federal deadlines for replacing or retrofitting tank cars. More than 2 million miles of pipeline deliver 24 percent of the natural gas and 39 percent of the total oil consumed in the United States, yet only 16 percent of U.S. rail tank cars carrying flammable liquids meet the improved safety specifications for DOT-117/DOT-117R cars. Failure to meet safety standards by or ahead of deadlines places communities near tracks at unacceptable risks, board members believe.

The U.S. NTSB investigations have shown that moving ethanol by rail and crude oil by pipeline can be unnecessarily hazardous. These essential commodities must be conveyed in a manner that ensures the safety of those who are transporting it as well as those in the communities it passes through.

There are 267 open safety recommendations associated with the current most wanted list and the board is focused on implementing 46 of them within the next two years, U.S. NTSB officials said. The majority of the recommendations — roughly two-thirds — seek critical safety improvements by means other than regulation, they said.

“We at the NTSB can speak on these issues. We can testify by invitation to legislatures and to Congress, but we have no power of our own to act,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt. “We are counting on industry, advocates and government to act on our recommendations.”

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