49 CFR Appendix D to Part 218 - Appendix D to Part 218—Requirements and Considerations for Implementing Technology Aided Point Protection
This appendix provides further explanation and requirements for exercising the option to provide point protection with the aid of technology as permitted in § 218.99(b)(3)(i). The regulation permits the visual determination necessary to provide point protection, i.e., a determination that the track is clear, for a shoving or pushing movement to “be made with the aid of monitored cameras or other technological means, provided that it and the procedures for use provide an equivalent level of protection to that of a direct visual determination by a crewmember or other qualified employee properly positioned to make the observation as prescribed in this section and appendix D to this part.” This appendix addresses the general requirements and considerations for all technology aided point protection as well as specific additional requirements for those operations involving remote control operations at public highway-rail grade crossings, private highway-rail grade crossings outside the physical confines of a railroad yard, pedestrian crossings outside the physical confines of a railroad yard, and yard Access Crossings.
A. Although railroading is now one of the nation's older forms of mechanized transportation, equipment, components and operations all have evolved through new and improved technologies. Installing cameras in yards so that a location could be remotely monitored from somewhere else has become a railroading reality as cameras have become smaller, less expensive, and have increased resolution. It is possible to set up these cameras and monitors so that they provide at least an equivalent level of safety to that of an employee protecting the point. Part 218, subpart F permits such an operation to substitute for an employee's direct visual determination where the technology provides an equivalent level of protection to that of a direct visual determination. See § 218.99(b)(3)(i). Of course, to provide an equivalent level of protection, an employee needs to be properly qualified (see § 218.95(a)(2)) and the technology must work as intended. Most malfunctions of the technology should be detectable, and result in abandoning the use of the technology for determining point protection until the malfunction can be corrected.
B. The substitution of such technology for a direct visual determination is dependent on many factors. Each situation will have its own particular factual circumstances that shall require consideration in determining whether an equivalent level of safety can be achieved. For instance, with regard to the basic camera setup, a railroad shall consider whether an operator must see in color (largely a necessity if viewing signals), the width of the angle of view, the size and location of the monitor, whether the technology is for day-time use only, and whether its use should be limited to fair weather conditions. However, under all circumstances, the monitor shall display sufficient information to enable the viewer to make a determination that the track ahead of the shoving or pushing move is clear pursuant to the definition of “track is clear” in § 218.93.
C. Each railroad that chooses to implement such camera/monitor setups shall implement attendant procedures and qualify each employee who will be utilizing the technology. Railroads shall ensure that any monitored camera has sufficient resolution and real time coverage to provide protection equal to a direct visual determination. See § 218.99(b)(3)(i). Concerning attendant procedures, one such procedure may be for an employee viewing a monitor to communicate updates to the locomotive engineer or controlling crewmember at appropriate intervals. FRA equates the employee monitoring the camera to the employee controlling the movement who must not engage in any task unrelated to the oversight of the movement; thus, each railroad utilizing such cameras shall implement attendant procedures limiting any of the monitoring employee's ancillary duties that might distract from the employee's ability to visually determine that the track is clear and provide continuous communication to the employee controlling the movement.
D. There is also the consideration of whether the person viewing the monitor is the locomotive engineer, remote control operator, other crewmember or other qualified person, such as a yardmaster. If the monitor is not being viewed by the operator who is controlling the movement, then, there shall be a clear understanding and channel of communication between the operator and the employee who is viewing the monitor—as the latter would be protecting the movement. Providing an equivalent level of protection to that of a direct visual determination requires a thorough job briefing in which there is an understanding of who is observing the movement, what is the observer's range of vision, at what locomotive speed can the observation be made and how information will be conveyed to the operator/engineer, if that person is not the one viewing the monitor.
E. There may be occasions when a railroad finds it advantageous to use a non-crewmember, e.g., a yardmaster, to provide point protection, line switches, or check the status of a derail for a remote control crew; however, several potential problems may result when non-crewmembers are used to carry out some crewmember functions. Of foremost concern is the great potential for an error in communication or a misunderstanding between the non-crewmember and the crewmembers regarding the activity or status of equipment. A yardmaster who is occupied with his or her other responsibilities might not give the task the attention it deserves, or could be distracted and give an incorrect answer to a question by a crewmember (e.g., “is the move lined?”). The result could be that the task does not get completed or there is an error in task execution. Further, the crewmembers might not have any alternative way of determining that there is a problem with the point protection provided by the non-crewmember until it is too late. Consequently, to the extent they will be called upon to perform these duties, each railroad shall include yardmasters and other non-crewmembers in any operating rule promulgated in accordance with § 218.99(b)(2).
A. In addition to the general requirements and considerations for all technology aided point protection in lieu of direct visual determinations, additional requirements are necessary to address concerns specific to the use of camera/monitor setups for remote control locomotive operations to protect the point at highway-rail grade crossings, pedestrian crossings, and yard access crossings. Railroad operating rules currently permit a movement to travel over a crossing without the physical presence of a crewmember if a crossing is equipped with gates, if it can be determined that the gates are in the fully lowered position, and if the crossing is clear of vehicles and pedestrians. Remote control movements at highway-rail grade crossings, pedestrian crossings, and yard access crossings that utilize camera/monitor setups pose a greater direct risk to members of the general public than yard movements utilizing camera/monitor setups to check whether a track is clear. In addition, such setups can rapidly develop problems with motor vehicles and pedestrians unaccustomed to railroad operating rules and procedures. For these reasons, additional safeguards are necessary.
B. In consideration of the dangers posed by the use of camera/monitor setups for remote control locomotive operations at highway-rail grade crossings, pedestrian crossings, and yard access crossings, the following procedures shall be complied with in order to establish an equivalent means of safety in accordance with § 218.99(b)(3)(i):
1. Before camera-assisted remote control locomotive operations are permitted at highway-rail grade crossings, pedestrian crossings, and yard access crossings, a Crossing Diagnostic Team shall evaluate the crossing. The diagnostic team shall have representatives from the railroad, FRA, the State department of transportation (or another State agency having jurisdiction over the highway-rail grade crossing, pedestrian crossing, or yard access crossing), and local government authorities. The diagnostic team shall evaluate the suitability of each crossing for remote camera operations. Among the factors it shall consider are the following: the average annual daily traffic counts; the number of highway lanes; highway speed limits; the presence of adjacent signalized highway intersections; the number of railroad tracks; the angle of the roadway intersection; the volume of school bus, transit bus, emergency vehicle, commercial motor vehicle, and hazardous materials traffic over the crossing; the minimum remote control locomotive operator sight distances of roadway approaches to the crossing; and other relevant factors that could affect the safety of the crossing. The diagnostic team shall also consider the appropriate number of cameras and appropriate camera angles needed to provide for the remote operation of remote control locomotives over the crossing. The diagnostic team shall agree to a written diagnostic evaluation summary of the factors considered and shall provide the railroad with agreed upon parameters by which the camera-assisted remote control operation may continue in operation if the factors required for suitability change; thus, any change in the factors considered by the diagnostic team outside of the acceptable parameters shall require the railroad to receive a revised evaluation approval from a diagnostic team before continuing any such operation. In addition, any of the Federal, State, or local governmental authorities may trigger review of a prior evaluation approval at any time there is a question of the suitability of the operation. It is possible that, of the requirements listed below, requirements numbered 2, 4, 5, and 6 would be unnecessary at highway-rail grade crossings or yard access crossings equipped with approved supplemental safety devices (see 49 CFR part 222, app. A) that prevent motorists from driving around lowered gates; under such circumstances, the diagnostic team shall make such determinations. If a Crossing Diagnostic Team, as described in this paragraph, evaluated a crossing for the factors described herein, prior to April 14, 2008, another diagnostic team evaluation is not required to comply with this rule; however, the requirements listed below shall still apply to any such remotely controlled movements over that crossing.
2. Camera-assisted remote control locomotive operations shall only be permitted at crossings equipped with flashing lights, gates, and constant warning time train detection systems where appropriate, based on train speeds.
3. A crewmember or other qualified employee shall not view the monitor in place of the remote control operator, as is permitted for other shoving or pushing movements. See § 218.99(b)(3). For purposes of remote control locomotive operations with camera/monitor setups to protect the point at highway-rail grade crossings, pedestrian crossings, and yard access crossings, the remote control operator controlling the movement shall view the monitor during such operations.
4. The cameras shall be arranged to give the remote control locomotive operator controlling the movement a view of the rail approaches to the crossing from each direction so that the operator can accurately judge the end of the movement's proximity to the crossing.
5. The cameras shall be arranged to give the remote control locomotive operator a clear view to determine the speed and driver behavior (e.g., driving erratically) of any approaching motor vehicles.
6. Either the camera resolution shall be sufficient to determine whether the flashing lights and gates are working as intended or the crossing shall be equipped with a remote health monitoring system that is capable of notifying the remote control locomotive operator immediately if the flashing lights and gates are not working as intended.
7. The railroad shall notify the Associate Administrator for Safety in writing when this type of protection has been installed and activated at a crossing.
The technology used to aid point protection will undoubtedly develop and improve over time. FRA encourages the use and development of this technology as is evidenced by the option in this rule to utilize such technology. Meanwhile, as a regulating body, FRA cannot determine whether a new technology to aid point protection provides an equivalent level of protection to that of a direct visual determination unless we are made aware of the new technology. Consequently, aside from the camera/monitor setups described in this appendix, each railroad that intends to implement a technology used to aid point protection shall notify the Associate Administrator for Safety in writing of the technology to be used prior to implementation.