TSB calls for voice and video recorders on locomotives

by MM&D Online Staff

GATINEAU, QC—The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has released the report on its safety study, Expanding the use of locomotive voice and video recorders in Canada. The study looked at technology, legislative and regulatory issues, the potential safety benefits of installing recorders in locomotives, and the appropriate use of locomotive voice and video recorders (LVVR) information, among other subjects.

“The need for on-board voice and video recorders has been on the TSB Watchlist since 2012,” said Kathy Fox, Chair of the TSB. “In addition to providing important information to TSB investigations, data from these recordings, used in the context of a pro-active, non-punitive safety management system, will be invaluable to help railways identify and mitigate risks before accidents occur.”

The study concluded that expanding the use of these recordings has the potential to enhance safety and provide a better understanding and assessment of operational and human factors within the locomotive cab. In addition to their use in TSB accident investigations, railway companies could—if permitted—use LVVR data to enhance safety by developing and revising employee training programs, assessing and changing equipment designs and company operating procedures, improving crew security, and identifying risky behaviour.

“While I commend the TSB for the work they have done on this issue, today’s report does little to improve rail safety,” said Keith Creel, CP’s President and Chief Operating Officer. “I implore Minister Garneau to show political leadership by implementing LVVR as a preventative, proactive, behaviour-changing tool.”

CP has argued and will continue to argue that without a pre-emptive disciplinary option, LVVR would do little to improve safety.

“This technology needs to be implemented, but it needs to be used in a way that reinforces sound safety practices and rewards safe behaviours,” said Creel. “On one hand, the TSB is saying yes to accident prevention but on the other, it refuses to allow the railroad to take appropriate corrective action, including applying disciplinary consequences, in the event of unsafe behaviours.”

The study also recognized concerns that the expanded use of LVVR could infringe on employees’ rights, concluding that successful implementation of LVVR will depend on ensuring that the appropriate balance of rights and obligations for all key stakeholders is achieved through the establishment of a clear framework and guidelines for the use of the data.

In a statement, CP said it is firmly of the view that the need to prevent accidents outweighs these concerns. CP is also prepared to implement procedures that would ensure LVVR information must be tightly controlled and only used within strict guidelines.

“Not allowing LVVR to be used proactively is like giving highway police officers radar guns but not permitting them to hand out speeding tickets,” Creel said. “Without consequences, unsafe behaviours would simply continue.”

CP uses LVVR technology in 15 of its locomotives in the U.S. The technology is also being used successfully by others in the U.S. with studies showing a 40-percent reduction in collisions per million miles travelled.

“The safety of our communities trumps personal privacy, plain and simple,” Creel said. “To put a finer point on what the TSB has issued today, I will say this: I would much rather prevent a death, than explain one.”

Key railway stakeholders participated in the safety study, including Transport Canada, the Railway Association of Canada, Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian National Railway, VIA Rail, GO Transit, and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference.

Now that the study is completed, the TSB calls upon the Minister of Transport to take concrete action to initiate implementation of LVVR as soon as possible, and to introduce legislation to permit the expanded use of on-board recorders in all modes of transportation. The TSB is committed to working with Transport Canada on the development of an action plan and appropriate policy options.