Are integrators about to board the train?

A railroad safety committee is evaluating the safety and investigative use of cameras, recording devices in locomotive cabs
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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

WASHINGTON—The Security Industry Association is backing the development of standards that would address the installation and use of inward- and outward-facing cameras and recording devices on locomotive train cabs.

Developed by the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee, the recommendations address a host of particulars that will go a long way in determining how robust the market will be for integrators.

The recommendations will address timelines, technical controls, recording retention periods, recording retrieval, custody of recordings, crashworthiness standards, and investigative and study applications, among other points of interest.

The RSAC plans to report the recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration, a rulemaking body, by April 1, 2015. Jake Parker, director or government relations at SIA, acknowledged that the RSAC has several important details to hash out before that deadline.

“One of the big questions is whether recording devices will be video or audio only, or some combination of the two,” Parker told Security Systems News. Though interested parties, including the RSAC, FRA, the National Transportation Safety Board and labor groups, agree that footage and recordings will play a vital role in post-accident investigations, they have not come to a consensus on how the information will be used outside that scope, Parker noted.

The range of purposes of the footage will ultimately dictate what equipment will be required, and what limitations will be put in place to guide their use, Parker said.

Labor will influence the recommendations process, Parker noted, though the groups involved do not have a unified position. Some favor video cameras to audio recording devices, while others want a “modified black box” that combines an event recorder, which tracks speed and engine information, with “voice and radio transmission” rather than in-cab cameras.

“It’s rather unclear what they want, but I know the FRA is pretty committed to doing something about this, so I don’t think they’re going to let the process get hung up on it,” Parker noted.

A few high-profile passenger train accidents have in part spurred the safety recommendations, Parker added. One of those was a deadly 2013 crash that took place in the Riverdale Section of the Bronx, when a train derailed while traveling at 82 mph around a 30 mph curve, killing four and injuring more than 60 others.
Another was a 2008 collision between a commuter train and a freight train in the Chatsworth district of Los Angeles, which left 25 dead and 135 injured.

The RSAC will meet approximately four more times to hammer out details before the April 2015 completion date.