In 2002, FRA’s office of Research and Development (R&D) noted that there had not been any major improvements in human-factors-caused accident levels in recent years. On the basis of this observation, FRA decided to implement and evaluate an approach to safety that has proven successful in the airline, chemical processing, nuclear, and other transportation industries but had not yet been used with railroads. That approach came to be known as the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS).
FRA R&D formed a planning committee to develop a workshop on close call reporting systems in 2002. The committee included representatives from short line and Class 1 rail carriers, unions, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the airline industry, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), FRA’s Office of Safety, and FRA R&D. The workshop served as 1) an information-sharing as a mechanism to expose railroad stakeholders to ways other industries have handled close call reporting and 2) provided a setting in which a coalition of interests could form to advance close call reporting in the railroad industry.
In 2003, FRA R&D initiated the C3RS demonstration program on the basis of stakeholder enthusiasm. The planning committee drafted a model Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was acceptable to management, labor, and FRA.
FRA and the Volpe Center recruited railroads for pilot tests of the C3RS program. Four railroads—Union Pacific (UP) North Platte Service Area, Canadian Pacific (CP) Chicago Area, New Jersey Transit (NJT), and Amtrak—became pilot sites as a result of these efforts.
Work at the first pilot site began in 2007. Based upon the positive impact of the program, FRA began moving toward nationwide implementation, offering the C3RS program to any interested railroad.
In late 2011 transition planning began to move the management of C3RS from FRA R&D to the Office of Railroad Safety. FRA continues to sponsor the lessons learned evaluation of the C3RS program to provide data to improve implementation, outcome, and sustainability.