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"unintended brake release of a train’s automatic air brakes while stopped at a signal"


DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Railroad Administration Safety Advisory 2022–02; Addressing Unintended Train Brake Release AGENCY: Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Department of Transportation (DOT). ACTION: Notice of Safety Advisory. SUMMARY: FRA is issuing Safety Advisory 2022–02 to make the rail industry aware of a recent issue encountered by a train crew that experienced an unintended brake release of a train’s automatic air brakes while stopped at a signal, and to recommend steps addressing the unintended release of train air brakes. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gary Fairbanks, Staff Director, Motive Power & Equipment Division, Office of Railroad Infrastructure and Mechanical, FRA, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590, telephone: (202) 493–6322, email: gary.fairbanks@ dot.gov. Disclaimer: This Safety Advisory is considered guidance pursuant to DOT Order 2100.6A (June 7, 2021). Except when referencing laws, regulations, policies, or orders, the information in this Safety Advisory does not have the force and effect of law and is not meant to bind the public in any way. This document does not revise or replace any previously issued guidance. Background On June 22, 2022, during a significant thunderstorm, a crew consisting of a locomotive engineer and conductor operated a conventionally powered, intermodal train with 3 head-end locomotives, 47 loaded cars, and 6 empty cars, totaling 9,204 feet in length and 7,392 tons in weight. The engineer stopped the train on a downhill grade of 0.9–1.18% near the signal governing the train’s movement, set the train’s air brakes at approximately 12 pounds, and fully set the locomotive consist’s independent brakes. After being stopped for approximately 3 hours, the engineer and conductor, located in the lead locomotive cab, observed the train roll towards the signal interlocking displaying a stop indication. This train experienced an unintended automatic brake release. The locomotive consist’s independent brakes remained fully applied but due to the grade, tonnage and wet rail could not solely hold the train without the automatic air brakes also being applied. At that time, an opposing train on the same track was preparing to cross through the interlocking in front of the rolling train. The locomotive engineer of the rolling train applied full-service airbrakes and full dynamic braking but was not satisfied that the brakes were working effectively or fast enough. The conductor operated the emergency brake valve and stopped the train short of the signal and the train that was preparing to cross through the interlocking. The crew then contacted the dispatcher and railroad management to report the unintended brake release and the conductor set a sufficient number of car handbrakes to hold the train on the grade. FRA’s investigation of the rolling train’s event recorder, positive train control (PTC) system, and engine data logs, revealed: the PTC system had operated properly and would have initiated an emergency brake application upon reaching the signal; the Trip Optimizer was off; and the lea