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Portable Derails


Federal Railroad Administration

Safety Advisory 2022–01; Use of

Portable Derails

AGENCY: Federal Railroad

Administration (FRA), Department of

Transportation (DOT).

ACTION: Notice of safety advisory.

SUMMARY: FRA is issuing Safety

Advisory 2022–01 to emphasize the

importance of, first, ensuring that

portable derails are clearly visible to

train crews and operators of other on-

track equipment, particularly at night

and in other low-light conditions; and,

second, having processes in place to

ensure portable derails are removed

when not necessary for on-track safety.

This Safety Advisory recommends that

railroads, and railroad contractors,

review and revise their on-track safety

manuals, as necessary, to ensure they

include procedures and rules for the use

of portable derails.


Jiang Zhang, Staff Director, Track and

Structures Division, Office of Railroad

Safety, FRA, 1200 New Jersey Avenue

SE, Washington, DC 20590, telephone:

(202) 493–6460, email: yujiang.zhang@

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.



On August 29, 2022, a train crew

operating in a railroad yard at night

encountered a portable derail placed on

the track earlier that day to protect

multiple engineering work groups

working on the track. The train crew,

which did not see the derail, operated

their train directly into the derail,

striking it at approximately nine miles

per hour and derailing the first two cars

of their train. The conductor, who was

riding the lead car, was fatally injured

when the car rolled over.

FRA’s blue signal protection (BSP)

requirements have long required

mechanical derails to be used for the

protection of workers on, under, or

between rolling equipment to have a

blue light illuminated at night. See 49

CFR part 218, subpart B. Typically, in

BSP work areas (e.g., mechanical shops),

derails are located at known or fixed

locations. Roadway workers, however,

use portable maintenance-of-way

(MOW) derails, which may be installed

almost anywhere on non-controlled

track for protection.1 Because portable

MOW derails are not required to be

marked or otherwise illuminated for

conspicuity, even under conditions of

limited visibility, they can become

hazards themselves if not highly visible

in low-light conditions. Accordingly,

best practice dictates that portable

derails installed on track should be

equipped with a portable light or, at a

minimum, reflectorized flags in low-

light conditions.

In addition, portable derails should

not be left on the track when they are

no longer necessary. For example, some

railroads require their roadway workers

in charge (RWICs) to fill out a form

before installing the portable derails.

This form typically requires the RWIC to

record the date, location, installation

time, and removal time of the portable

derail. Formalizing the process for

installation and removal of portable

derails heightens the awareness of the

presence of portable derails and the

importance of removing these derails

from the track when they are no longer


FRA notes that some railroads require

employees to place a tag on the steering

wheel of their hi-rail vehicles when

placing shunts on the track. A similar

process for placing portable derails

would safeguard against roadway

workers unintentionally leaving

portable derails on the track.


In light of the above discussion, FRA

recommends that railroads and railroad


1. Review with their employees the

circumstances of the fatal accident

described in this Safety Advisory.

2. Review and revise as necessary,

their on-track safety manuals to ensure

the use of portable derails is adequately

addressed and, at a minimum, that these


a. Provide that portable derails be

equipped with a functioning light or a

reflectorized flag when used at night or

under other conditions of limited

visibility; and

b. Include procedures to ensure that

portable derails are removed when no

longer necessary, such as procedures to

track the location and use of portable


FRA encourages all railroad industry

members to take actions consistent with

the recommendations of this Safety

Advisory. FRA may modify this Safety

Advisory, issue additional safety

advisories, or take other appropriate

action necessary to ensure the highest

level of safety on the Nation’s railroads,

including pursuing other corrective

measures under its rail safety authority.

Issued in Washington, DC.

John Karl Alexy,

Associate Administrator for Railroad Safety

Chief Safety Officer.

[FR Doc. 2022–23486 Filed 10–27–22; 8:45 am]



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