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Would You Pass the FTA’s New Safety Rules for Monthly Reporting and Surprise Audits?

Jun 25, 2018
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When you get onto a bus or train as a passenger, you just want to sit back and relax. You’re not the one driving! But when you’re the agency behind the service, you’re focused on a number of concerns to make the trip as comfortable and reliable as possible for riders.

Even though the top concern is always safety, unforeseen mechanical problems or human error can’t always be avoided.

While rail incidents have declined over the last 10 years, crossing deaths spiked in 2014, up 17% over the previous year and adding up to the highest number of rail casualties since 2007. Sad but true, people still think they can get across the tracks before the train comes.

The U.S. Department of Transportation launched a $7-million safety campaign this January called “Stop! Trains Can’t” to reduce accidents at railroad crossings around the country.

Stats Show Public Transit Safest Way to Travel

Even though train accidents always make headlines, the fact is public transit is much safer than getting behind the wheel of a car. A 2013 report by the World Health Organization found that more than 1.24 million people die every year as a result of road traffic injuries, making it the eighth leading cause of death globally, and the leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 29. Driver behavior – texting, speeding, alcohol, sleep deprivation – is getting worse. By 2030, road accidents are projected to be the fifth leading cause of death globally. The prevalence of traffic deaths has prompted the United Nations to proclaim 2011 to 2020 the Decade of Action for Road Safety.

In the U.S., the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which oversees safety measures in public transportation, recently ushered in some new regulations in response to major train accidents and derailments in the past year.

The biggest change coming out of these new regulations is that transit agencies are required to report incidents, injuries, or fatalities much faster than before – in some situations within two hours. They now have to report on the financials, too, with incident-related damages in dollars. The FTA, in turn, funnels the info to the National Transit Database, the repository of all data about financial, operating, and asset conditions across the country.

If you are tracking your operations manually on a piece of paper or spreadsheet, you can imagine how difficult, if not impossible, it’s going to be to collect information in less than two hours and send it over to the FTA. Manual reporting is not a sustainable, long-term solution.

Monthly Reporting and Audits Coming Your Way

The FTA also requires safety and security tracking and monthly reporting duties by transit agencies, whether or not an incident has occurred. Furthermore, the FTA will also conduct surprise audits on safety reporting and procedures. Nothing is more uncomfortable than a surprise audit for personal taxes if all you’ve got is a box of papers and receipts to sift through. So you can appreciate how auditing an expanding and complex transit agency would be even more challenging when you’re relying on manual documents.

The reality is most agencies have at least one minor accident a day, such as a slip and fall. But safety and security personnel at agencies aren’t usually connected to dispatching groups. However, the new regulations mean these employees need to be aware of dispatching details: how much rest did operators have this week? Were there any complaints generated? How many shifts did individual operators fill?

Better monitoring and reporting to FTA also means better tracking and understanding of how many operators are well-rested and ready to work.

New Rules Impact Your Bottom Line

The other major consideration is that the FTA also decides funding for transit partially based on what you report, such as annual ridership and, now, safety and security. If agencies don’t report properly and accurately, it could affect their funding. For instance, if an agency doesn’t submit a report, or if the report is late or incomplete, the agency’s data may not be included in the National Transit Database. That means the FTA could declare the agency ineligible to receive any Urbanized Area Formula Program funds during an entire fiscal year.

Having workforce management technology in place is one important way to adapt to new requirements. An automated system creates reliable reporting that’s easy to access. That’s going to be key moving forward.

This technology means crucial information is instantly available to both dispatchers and safety personnel, so incidents can be handled with efficacy and speed. An FTA module with the specifications for reporting can be customized for working with software you may already have in place.

While you can’t avoid every accident, you will be in a position to act more quickly and report more thoroughly when it happens.

Dave’s 30 years of experience in building, designing, and implementing Planning, Scheduling and Operations Management solutions for the Public Transit Industry have afforded him a rich and diverse industry, solutions, and technical background. Dave has served in leadership roles at Trapeze Group for nearly 19 years, and has managed many aspects of the Software for Transit business.
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