Technical Reports

Compliance with Railroad Operating Rules and Corporate Culture Influences - Results of a Focus Group and Structured Interviews

  • 01
  • Oct
  • 1999
AUTHOR: Michael K. Coplen, M.A., Operations Research Analyst, Volpe National Transportation Systems Center
SUBJECT: Human Factors, Railroad Employees
KEYWORDS: railroad operating rules, compliance, culture
ABSTRACT: A focus group was held at the November 11, 1996 meeting of the Operating Rules Association of North American Railroads to discuss the general issue of compliance and operating rules. Twelve operating rules officers participated, representing Class I, II, and III railroads. Individual structured interviews were also conducted both prior to and following the focus group session to discuss general issues surrounding operating rules, and to provide follow-up information to major findings from the focus group session. Focus group participants generally reported that senior management tends to emphasize productivity over safety, suggesting some railroads may have created an organizational culture that unintentionally encourages operating rules violations. Follow-up interviews with a number of industry representatives supported this view. Some interviewees suggested railroad mergers often result in discordant management philosophies within the same organization, directly influencing corporate culture and how operating rules officers enforce rules compliance. Findings for each of the five focus group questions are categorized by type of response. Specific recommendations for structural change and follow-on work are also discussed.
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