WSR 04-15-140




[ Docket No. TR-040151 -- Filed July 21, 2004, 9:12 a.m. ]

Original Notice.

Preproposal statement of inquiry was filed as WSR 04-05-103.

Title of Rule and Other Identifying Information: WAC 480-62-218 Point protection. The proposal would add to rules governing railroad operations a rule addressing point protection. The proposed rule requires railroads to protect the leading end of train movements to add safety for employees that might be present on the tracks ahead of the movement, vehicles using road crossings, and trains on connected tracks.

Hearing Location(s): Commission Hearing Room 206, Second Floor, Chandler Plaza Building, 1300 South Evergreen Park Drive S.W., Olympia, WA 98504, on September 29, 2004, at 9:30 a.m.

Date of Intended Adoption: September 29, 2004.

Submit Written Comments to: Carole J. Washburn, Secretary, P.O. Box 47250, Olympia, WA 98504-7250, e-mail, fax (360) 586-1150, by August 11, 2004. Please include Docket No. TR-040151 in your communication.

Assistance for Persons with Disabilities: Contact Mary DeYoung by September 27, 2004, TTY (360) 586-8203 or (360) 664-1133.

Purpose of the Proposal and Its Anticipated Effects, Including Any Changes in Existing Rules: Point protection requires that a train crewmember who controls a locomotive, or who can provide information to the person who does, is able to see ahead of the direction in which the train is moving to make sure the way is clear. Railroads have operating rules that require employees to provide point protection. These rules, however, are not enforceable by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) or the commission. The proposed rule requires railroads to follow procedures modeled after railroad operating rules to ensure that people, vehicles, and other trains are less likely to be struck by trains.

When a locomotive is shoving a train, the engineer in the cab cannot perform point protection. In those circumstances and when safety generally requires it, the proposed rule would require that a crewmember be in a position to see ahead of the train. This requirement is always necessary when the train will occupy a highway crossing at grade. Additionally, the crewmember must be in a position to warn vehicular traffic at crossings unless he or she confirms that crossing gates are in a fully lowered position, or that no traffic is approaching or stopped at the crossing.

When a locomotive is pulling forward, the engineer in the cab performs the lookout function, so a rule is unnecessary. However, when the locomotive is moved by remote control and no one is in the cab, the dangers presented by a pulling movement are the same as in a shoving movement. Accordingly, the rules for shoving movements are made applicable to pulling movements in remote control operations.

When railroads establish zones that no one can enter other than a remote control operator, a point protection rule is unnecessary. Therefore, the proposed rule includes an exception to point protection to allow this type of operation. However, in order to ensure clarity about how these zones should operate, point protection remains required at highway crossings at grade and where a train can enter mainline tracks except under certain circumstances.

Reasons Supporting Proposal: As the FRA stated in a recent report, failure to provide point protection is the leading cause of train accidents in conventional switching operations, as well as a contributing factor in accidents in remote control operations. The proposed rule will allow the commission to enforce existing, but currently unenforceable, railroad safety procedures concerning point protection. Additional inspections and enforcement are expected to reduce safety violations and decrease the hazards of rail operations for railroad employees and the public.

Statutory Authority for Adoption: RCW 80.01.040, 81.04.160.

Rule is not necessitated by federal law, federal or state court decision.

Name of Proponent: Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, governmental.

Name of Agency Personnel Responsible for Drafting: Mike Rowswell, Rail Safety Manager, 1300 South Evergreen Park Drive S.W., Olympia, WA 98504, (360) 664-1265; Implementation and Enforcement: Carole J. Washburn, Executive Secretary, 1300 South Evergreen Park Drive S.W., Olympia, WA 98504, (360) 664-1174.

No small business economic impact statement has been prepared under chapter 19.85 RCW. The proposed rule will not result in or impose an increase in costs for any businesses in the railroad industry. Because there will not be any increase in costs resulting from the proposed rule, a small business economic impact statement is not required under RCW 19.85.030(1).

A cost-benefit analysis is not required under RCW 34.05.328. The commission is not an agency to which RCW 34.05.328 applies. The proposed rule is not a significant legislative rule of the sort referenced in RCW 34.05.328(5).

July 21, 2004

Carole J. Washburn

Executive Secretary


WAC 480-62-218   Point protection.   (1) The following definitions apply to this section:

"Shove" means to back up or push cars with a locomotive rather than pulling them.

"Drop" and "kick" mean to release cars from a train or locomotive and allow them to coast or roll free.

(2) When cars or engines are shoved, a crew member must take an easily seen position on the leading car or engine, or be ahead of the movement, to provide protection. This requirement does not apply when it is reasonably certain, through the use of technology or other means, that neither people nor equipment are in the way and that switches are properly lined. Cars or engines must not be shoved to block other tracks until it is safe to do so.

(3) When railroad cars are shoved, kicked or dropped over road crossings at grade, a crew member must be on the ground at the crossing to warn traffic until the crossing is occupied. Movements over the crossing may only be made on the crew member's signal.

(4) The warning required in subsection (3) of this section is not required when crossing gates are in the fully lowered position, or it is clearly seen that no traffic is approaching or stopped at the crossing.

(5) Movements performed under remote-control operations are to be considered "shoving" movements, regardless of the direction or position of the remote-control locomotive, except when the primary remote-control operator is riding the leading locomotive.

(6) When a remote-control zone has been activated in accordance with a railroad's own rules, the railroad may relieve the remote-control operator of the requirements of this rule. However, the railroad must provide point protection in accordance with subsections (2) and (3) of this section at road crossings at grade or where a car or engine that is being moved could block mainline tracks except:

(a) When it is reasonably certain, through the use of technology or other means, that neither people nor equipment are in the way and switches are properly lined.

(b) When crossing gates are in the fully lowered position, or it is clearly seen that no traffic is approaching or stopped at the crossing.

(7) The requirements of this section apply to a railroad unless and until it has filed with the Federal Railroad Administration, pursuant to 49 CFR Sec. 217, operating rules that materially modify the requirements of Sections 6.5 and 6.32.1 of the General Code of Operating Rules (Fourth Ed., effective April 2, 2000).


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