Only four of the 41 rail systems in the nation required to implement positive train control (PTC) met the end-of-the-year deadline in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT).
A CNN report indicates that the remaining rail systems, including Amtrak, have either applied for or been granted extensions of the deadline to adopt the lifesaving technology designed to prevent train accidents, including collisions and derailments. PTC involves installing equipment on locomotives and tracks that communicates information about the train's speed as well as the position of the train and track switches.
The National Transportation Safety Board has repeatedly called for PTC implementation. Chairman Robert Sumwalt told Congress last February that the board has identified 150 accidents since 1969, which have caused nearly 300 deaths, that could have been prevented by the technology.
In 2008, Congress set a 2015 deadline for implementing PTC, then extended it until 2018. Congress required federal regulators to approve extensions until 2020 for railroads that demonstrate progress toward implementing the technology. In December 2017, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao wrote to railroad executives to express her concern that insufficient levels of PTC implementation had been implemented. At the time, the department warned that civil penalties will be issued to railroads that fail to implement PTC systems.
Railroad systems have complained that the technology is complicated and expensive to install. Rail industry experts have recommended that railroads improve signage and warnings for train engineers in the meantime, as these steps are a relatively inexpensive. Over the past few years, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) have provided grant funding opportunities for rail systems to put PTC technology into effect.