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FTA's McMillan Outlines Agency's New Safety Role

FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan issued an online letter to the public transportation industry in late July outlining the agency’s new accident investigation role, including how FTA accident investigators operate and interact with State Safety Oversight Agencies (SSOAs) and FTA grantees, a responsibility granted to the agency by MAP-21.

The role of FTA accident investigators is two-fold, McMillan stated: “to investigate safety-related events in the transit ­industry and to gather information that informs the safety process within the FTA. The FTA’s investigators may travel to the scene of an incident, or simply contact the responsible SSOA, the FTA grantee or other involved parties to obtain information,” she said.

She also noted the specific duties of FTA investigators, including “regularly contacting SSOAs, transit providers, manufacturers, trade organizations and other industry stakeholders to collect detailed safety-related data. These communications are part of FTA’s effort to use Safety Management System processes to identify risk across the transit industry. As a result, FTA’s investigators may contact you when there has been an accident or incident, as well as on a regular basis as they seek to partner with you to make a very safe mode of travel even safer.”

She also described the differences between FTA investigations and those conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). “While FTA also conducts accident investigations to determine probable cause, it differs from the NTSB insofar as FTA can take a regulatory or other enforceable action to address the cause of a given accident. It also is important to note that by regulation, the FTA is guaranteed party status [which means NTSB deems FTA as having expertise] in any NTSB investigation of a transit safety incident. For a given transit-related safety event, the FTA may participate in an NTSB investigation, conduct its own independent investigation or choose not to investigate at all.”

To see the letter, click here. For details about FTA’s safety over­­sight role, contact Thomas Littleton, associate administrator for transit safety and oversight.
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