Accident Data, Reporting, and Investigations

Accident/Incident Data

Regulations on reporting railroad accidents and incidents can be found in Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 225, Railroad Accidents/Incidents, Reports Classification, and Investigations. The purpose of the regulations is to provide FRA with accurate information concerning the hazards and risks that exist on the Nation’s railroads. FRA needs this information to effectively carry out its regulatory and enforcement responsibilities under the Federal railroad safety statutes. FRA also uses this information to determine comparative trends of railroad safety and to develop hazard elimination and risk reduction programs that focus on preventing railroad injuries and accidents.

FRA collects and analyzes the data from the Nation’s railroads and converts this information into meaningful statistical tables, charts, and reports that you can find on the FRA Safety Data site.

 Accident/Incident Reporting Responsibility of Railroads to FRA

The primary groups of accidents and incidents to be reported monthly by railroads are:

  • Highway-rail grade crossing accidents/incidents.
  • Rail equipment accidents/incidents.
  • Casualties to persons (i.e., death and non-fatal injuries to all types of persons, and occupational illnesses involving railroad employees).

In addition to monthly railroad-reported accidents and incidents, railroads are required to provide FRA with immediate notification of various types of accidents. This notification is routed through the National Response Center, which notifies FRA of such accidents on a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week basis. 

See definitions and requirements for reporting and/or recordkeeping in 49 CFR Part 225 and FRA's Guide for Preparing Accident Incident Reports.

FRA Accident Investigations (general criteria)

FRA investigates accidents and incidents as determined by the Accident Analysis Branch or regional management. Generally, FRA investigates accidents and incidents meeting the following criteria:

  • Any collision (main or yard track), derailment, or passenger train incident resulting in at least one fatality or serious injury to railroad passengers or crewmembers.
  • Any railroad-related accident resulting in death to an on-duty railroad employee, including an employee of a contractor to a railroad, regardless of craft.
  • Any highway-rail grade crossing accident resulting in any of the following:
    • Death to one or more persons being transported in a commercial vehicle or school bus.
    • Serious injury to several persons being transported in a commercial vehicle or school bus.
    • Death to three or more persons in a private highway vehicle.
    • Accidents involving grade crossing signal failure or allegations of grade crossing signal failure.
  • Any non-casualty train accident resulting in derailment of a locomotive, 15 cars or more, and extensive property damage.
  • Any train accident/incident resulting in a fire, explosion, evacuation, or release of regulated hazardous materials, especially if it exposed a community to these hazards or the threat of such exposure.
  • Any accident/incident involving a train transporting nuclear materials.
  • Any train incident involving runaway or rollaway equipment, with or without locomotives.
  • Any collision involving maintenance-of-way or hi-rail equipment.
  • Any accident caused by failure of a locomotive or any part of a locomotive, or a person coming in contact with an electrically energized part that resulted in serious injury or death of one or more persons. 
  • Accidents resulting from signal failure including Positive Train Control-related failures and malfunctions.
  • Any other train accident/incident likely to generate considerable public interest.
  • Most Amtrak accidents/incidents.

 For additional information on FRA accident investigations, click here.