The mission of the Rail Safety Program is to prevent catastrophic accidents, derailments, and injuries to the public as well as railroad personnel. The program consists of two certified inspectors who are responsible for enforcing state and federal rail safety regulations through boots-on-the-ground inspections of railroad equipment. Inspectors also perform onsite audits of railroad employee training records, as well as equipment maintenance records, to ensure up-to-date compliance.
A typical inspection can take up to eight hours and requires inspectors to walk the full length of a one to two mile train while keeping a watchful eye out for mechanical defects and other violations. The PSC closely monitors rail traffic throughout the state in order to determine how to best allocate our inspection resources. It’s important to inspect trains carrying all types of freight because, even if a train is not transporting hazardous materials, it can damage the track, creating a potential hazards for other trains traveling on the same line.
TRAINING & AUTHORITY
Certified rail safety inspectors must undergo six months of rigorous on the job training, as well as four weeks of intensive classroom instruction administered by the Federal Railroad Safety Administration. Both of the PSC’s inspectors are fully certified through the Federal Railroad Safety Administration to enforce Code of Federal Regulations 215 Freight Car Safety Standards, 229 Locomotive Safety Standards, and 232 Brake System Safety Standards, as well as other CFR sections regulating railroad rolling stock. Both inspectors have the ability to issue defects and violations to railroads under the Code of Federal Regulations.
Operating authority for the state Rail Safety Program resides in Montana Code Annotated Title 69, Chapter 14, which covers a wide variety of subject matters related to railroads including: investigative authority of blocked public road grade crossings, maintenance of fireguards, and vandalism and theft of railroad property.
In addition to their rail safety work, inspectors also enforce state statute and PSC rules related to the motor carrier industry, including household goods movers, passenger motor carriers, and garbage carriers. Inspectors have the ability to write citations and/or revoke the carriers operating authority through Montana Code Annotated Title 69, Chapters 11 and 12.
The rail safety program is also a proud participant in Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit public safety education and awareness organization dedicated to reducing collisions, fatalities, and injuries at highway rail crossings, and trespassing on or near railroad tracks. Operation Lifesaver offers free rail safety education instruction to school groups, professional drivers, and first responders.