Rep. Pascrell Statement on NTSB Opening Dockets in Fatal Hoboken Terminal Crash
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09) responded to the opening of the dockets for the fatal, Sept. 29, 2016, NJ Transit commuter rail collision in Hoboken, N.J., as well as the Jan. 4, 2017, Long Island Rail Road collision at the Atlantic Terminal, Brooklyn, N.Y. The dockets were made public Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as part of its ongoing investigations of the two accidents.
"The information released today reminds us that the NTSB is aggressively seeking answers to the Hoboken tragedy. I expect a thorough report next year with recommendations for policies that NJ Transit can implement to assure commuters that a similar incident will not happen again," Rep. Pascrell said. "Safety must be our top priority, which is why it is shameful that the Trump administration decided to withdraw its sleep apnea rule before NTSB could finalize its report."
A preliminary report on the Hoboken crash issued by the NTSB found that the train abruptly accelerated to more than twice the posted speed limit just moments before impact.
In November 2016, a lawyer for Thomas Gallagher, the NJ Transit engineer in the Hoboken crash, said that Gallagher had severe sleep apnea, which had gone undiagnosed. According to the National Institutes of Health, sleep apnea affects more than 18 million Americans. The disorder is especially dangerous for truck drivers and railroad engineers who must be alert at all times.
In August 2017, the Trump administration withdrew a proposed requirement for railroads and trucking companies to test employees for obstructive sleep apnea, which is believed to be a factor in the fatal Hoboken crash. The mandatory sleep apnea screenings were proposed by the Obama administration in March 2016.
Rep. Pascrell joined Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) and other colleagues on a letter sent to the Acting Administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Deputy Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA), expressing disappointment that the agencies failed to move forward with rulemaking that would allow testing and treatment for sleep apnea for mass transit workers.
The NTSB is preparing a Special Investigation Report focused on the findings from both the NJ Transit and Long Island Rail Road accidents. The Special Investigation Report will include recommendations based on those findings. The commonalities in the accidents – both involving bumping post collisions at the end of a track in a terminal – warrant a singular discussion of the related safety issues, according to the NTSB. Combining each accident report with a Special Investigation Report allows each to be addressed in a single board meeting. The NTSB has scheduled that board meeting for Feb. 6, 2018, in the NTSB Board Room and Conference Center, 429 L’Enfant Plaza, SW, Washington, beginning 9:30 a.m. (EST).