With another recent train derailment – which resulted in dozens of homes being evacuated and the closure of a major interstate highway – the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will begin another investigation into the cause of a railroad derailment.

What is the FRA?

The FRA is a part of the United States Department of Transportation. Part of the job of the FRA is to investigate some railroad accidents, incidents and casualties. According to the FRA’s website, the FRA conducts about 100 formal investigations each year, along with several hundred more informal investigations.

How does the FRA investigate a train accident or derailment?

The FRA investigates derailments and train accidents by inspecting the track, locomotives, cars or other equipment involved; interviewing witnesses and reviewing maintenance, inspection and employee records. Sometimes, there is an event recorder, also known as a “black box” that may have data that is helpful in an investigation.

How long does an FRA investigation take?

The length of time for an FRA investigation varies due to a number of factors, but the agency seeks to have investigations complete less than a year after the accident takes place.

What about the NTSB?

Sometimes, the National Transportation Safety Board may investigate an accident that involves the most catastrophic or serious railroad accidents. When the NTSB investigates a railroad accident or derailment, the NTSB has primary authority over the investigation.