NTSB Investigators Discuss Causes Of NJ TRANSIT, LIRR Crashes

NTSB Investigators Discuss Causes Of NJ TRANSIT, LIRR Crashes

The Obama administration had been considering requiring truck drivers and railroad engineers to be screened for sleep apnea, but the Trump administration scrapped the effort in August.

The September 2016 NJ TRANSIT crash at the Hoboken Terminal left one person dead and more than 100 injured.

An injured passenger is taken from the Atlantic Terminal in the Brooklyn borough of NY after a Long Island Rail Road train hit a bumping block.

In both accidents, locomotive engineers failed to stop their trains as they entered a terminal station - crashing into concrete "bumping posts" at the end of the tracks.

The FRA previous year abandoned a proposal that would have required railroad engineers to be tested for the disorder that can cause people to fall asleep on the job.

Past year the Railroad Administration abandoned plans to require the testing as part of President Donald Trump's effort to reduce federal regulations.

Just months after US rail and highway regulators said they were withdrawing plans to screen truckers and railroad engineers for a unsafe sleep disorder, accident investigators blamed it for two New York-area transit crashes.

"The traveling public deserves alert operators", Sumwalt said.

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"That's not too much to ask", National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said today.

The NTSB said the FRA should mandate commuter rails to enact technology aimed at preventing trains "from reaching the end of the tracks".

More than 25 million Americans are estimated to suffer from undiagnosed sleep apnea.

Investigators found that undetected sleep apnea also caused the January 4, 2017, crash that left 108 individuals injured when a Long Island Rail Road train slammed into Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal. The NTSB concluded that the engineer fell asleep just before taking a 30-mph curve at 82 miles per hour.

"The failure of New Jersey Transit to follow internal guidance and refer at-risk safety-sensitive personnel including the engineer and other at-risk crew members for obstructive sleep apnea screening is evidence of a systemic failure of a critical safety system to ensure these personnel were fit for duty", the report reads. The safety agency cited both the absence of a preventative safety system to stop the crash, in addition to the FRA's failure to order sleep disorder testing, as causes.

This story has been corrected to show that NJ Transit had sleep apnea testing. The LIRR, operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, started its screening program after the crash. Almost 10,000 employees have been screened, more than 2,000 have been referred for sleep studies and about 1,185 have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and are in treatment, a spokesman said. It also blamed the Federal Railroad Administration for not making sleep apnea testing mandatory.

As part of its investigation, the NTSB issued several recommendations, including that both railroads consider similar past accidents and engineer fitness when identifying operational risks as part of their safety management plans.

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