News Release

RAC responds to TSB’s 2014 Watchlist

On November 26th, Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) set out its 2014 Watchlist of issues they identify as posing the greatest risks to Canada’s marine, rail, and air transportation sectors. One of the 8 Watchlist items concerns the need for locomotive on-board video and voice recorders:

“The railway industry must ensure that communications and interactions in locomotive cabs are recorded. The TSB is committed to working with the regulator and the railway industry to remove legislative barriers.”

This is an excellent example of alignment between the TSB and the railway industry. Canadian railways have long been seeking changes that would allow the use of recording devices in locomotive cabs, for use both in accident investigation and as part of each railway company’s Safety Management System (SMS). These devices would reduce risk, enhance safety and assist with accident investigation – a view shared by US safety investigators. This technology would have an immediate effect on the behavior of employees who carry enormous responsibility as engineers and conductors.

The TSB did not posit this Watchlist item lightly. It rests on recommendations flowing from a number of TSB and US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigations of serious railway accidents. This includes, but is certainly not limited to, the 2008 head-on collision in Chatsworth California (25 fatalities, 135 injuries), and the 2012 passenger train derailment in Burlington Ontario (3 crew member fatalities, 46 passenger injuries).

Understandably, railway operating employees and the Unions that represent them have legitimate privacy concerns about the use of such recorded information. Canada’s railways are committed to ensuring the recordings are only used by the TSB for accident investigation, and by authorized Railway personnel for legitimate safety management purposes. As with any untried tool, the final procedures for the use of LCDR information in Canada have yet to be written. But the industry believes that certain fundamental principles should apply.

First, access to the information must be tightly controlled and only used within strict guidelines. Local operations officers would not have direct access to this information.

Second, when required by the TSB, a Regulatory Agency such as Transport Canada conducting an investigation, or a law enforcement agency, the LCDR information would be subject to strict chain of custody requirements.

Third, the hard disks currently available for use with these systems are over-written in about a week. Absent an incident or audit, the LCDR information would be thus disposed of within a short timeframe.

Fourth, the review of LCDR information would necessarily be limited. It would be focused on a risk basis, and on an incident or trend basis. One example would be to focus on areas where both freight and passenger trains operate at high speed. Another would be to review any time an emergency brake application is made, or where a signal is missed. Some random audits may prove to add safety. The idea is to use this technology in concert with other systems to add yet another layer of safety to railway operations.

These systems would increase compliance and reduce tendencies toward distractions, such as mobile phone use. Practically speaking, the use of LCDR’s is no more invasive than having a railway supervisor ride the train, listen to radio communication or review videotapes of yard operations.

A recent study conducted at San José State University’s Mineta Transportation Institute looked at the experience from some 20,000 transit buses equipped with audio video equipment. The study found that the technology resulted in a 40% reduction in collisions per million miles traveled, and a 30% reduction in passenger injuries. They also reported findings of up to a 50% reduction in unsafe driving events.

In a background document issued with the 2014 Watchlist, the TSB notes that, in addition to accident investigation purposes, “the TSB also acknowledges the potential value of these devices if used in a non-punitive manner in the context of proactive safety management. The TSB is encouraged by the agreement on the fundamental need to capture the data, and is hopeful that outstanding differences can be resolved to allow use of on-board video and voice recordings as a reliable source of investigative and proactive safety management information.”

Currently, on-board recordings are privileged and can only be used for post occurrence investigations by the TSB. Therefore, legislative change is required in order for railways to be able to use this technology to prevent accidents and increase safety. We are anxious to work with the TSB for the legislative changes that are required so we can move forward.

Michael Bourque
President and CEO
Railway Association of Canada

News release

OTTAWA, Nov. 26 – The Railway Association of Canada (RAC) today responded to both the multi-modal and rail-related issues identified in the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s (TSB) 2014 Watchlist.

While federally-regulated railway companies are mandated to have safety management systems (SMS) in place, in its latest Watchlist, the TSB called on Transport Canada (TC) to require all modes of transportation to adopt a formalized process for proactively identifying and reducing risk. Canada’s railway industry supports measures to improve safety across the transportation sector, and it is working collaboratively with TC to revise SMS regulations, and to better understand, adopt and maintain safety culture.

RAC was also pleased that the TSB recognized the role that on-board video and voice recorders can play in proactive safety management. RAC applauds the TSB’s commitment to working with the railway sector to remove the legislative barriers currently preventing the use of this technology.

These devices address two of the TSB’s other Watchlist issues: following railway signal indications and railway crossing safety. Recordings could be used as an additional line of defence in ensuring that railway employees follow signals, which in turn would help reduce risk at crossings, where most accidents occur.

Finally, the TSB reiterated its recommendations about the transportation of flammable liquids by rail. One of RAC’s primary functions is to promote and continuously improve the safe handling of dangerous goods. The industry and its members are actively working with TC to identify the best ways of ensuring that flammable liquids are moved safely, beyond the temporary measures already in place.



President’s message: Railway association takes railway safety seriously

: Railway industry safety measures since Lac-Mégantic.

Infographic: Rail safety in Canada.


Alex Paterson
Railway Association of Canada

About the Railway Association of Canada

The Railway Association of Canada (RAC) represents more than 50 freight and passenger railway companies that move 75 million people and $250 billion worth of goods in Canada each year. As the voice of Canada’s railway industry, RAC advocates on behalf of its members and associate members to ensure that the rail sector remains globally competitive, sustainable, and most importantly, safe. Learn more at Follow us on Twitter:@RailCanada or Facebook:

Share this article.