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Potential Measures for Improving the Identification of Root Causes for Hazardous Materials Crashes 109 Tank cars used to transport some non-regulated materials are often identical to cars transport- ing certain regulated materials. Knowledge of their exposure to accidents and performance in accidents will substantially improve the robustness of the data, and consequent confidence in, and accuracy of, the statistics pertaining to tank cars of similar design that are used to transport hazardous materials. Development of information on intermodal portable tanks (isotainers) is needed to understand their performance in accidents and strengths and weaknesses in their damage-resistant design. This could be achieved in a manner analogous to the understanding that has developed during the past 38 years of studying railway tank cars. This mode of bulk transport is expanding, espe- cially in the area of import and export of hazardous materials. Recording the information described in this subsection will provide a basis for development of such statistics. Although the information presented in this subsection is not all that is needed for improved root cause analysis of rail transport of hazardous materials, in combination with detailed data on equip- ment design recorded by the railroads in the Universal Machine Language Equipment Register (UMLER) and the data on releases recorded by PHMSA in HMIRS, it would substantially strengthen our understanding of the factors affecting railcar performance and failure modes in accidents. 5.5 Conclusions The research conducted under this project has demonstrated that there has been considerable progress during the past 20 years in the development and refinement of databases that include haz- mat accidents. The project focused on identifying potential measures for improving the identifica- tion of the root causes of hazmat accidents using these databases. The project findings have provided researchers and officials with an overview and analysis of the individual databases and resulted in many potential measures for improving specific databases. However, implementation of the major measures--including establishing an information system, linking databases to take advantage of accident descriptions in more than one database, performing detailed sampling of a specific set of crashes to assemble more detailed information, and the adoption of techniques to improve data quality and completeness--could yield the greatest improvements in the ability of interested parties to conduct root cause analysis. This, in turn, would enable officials to identify problems for which a solution or mitigation will result in an improvement in hazmat shipment safety. 5.6 Follow-On Project If implemented, the findings of this report could lead to the enhanced identification of root and contributing causes of hazmat crashes. The implementation of the potential measures that were identified will likely present both technical and institutional challenges. Consequently, the project team also suggests that in order to evaluate the feasibility, usefulness, and costs of implementation, a pilot program be implemented to demonstrate that the system will work effectively in identify- ing root causes. The team suggests that the pilot test focus on truck hazmat accidents and involve linking the HMIRS database, which provides excellent data on the hazmat material and package, with the MCMIS database, which provides superior data on the driver and accident environment. To supplement the data found in the two databases, the pilot program could link at least 100 crashes and supplement the data primarily by telephoning carriers and other key sources such as police officers and tow truck drivers. The pilot project would select the sample of hazmat crashes based on a set of consistent criteria for a similar group of crashes such as hazmat truck rollovers. The pilot study would also document the costs associated with linking the two databases, identifying the sample for more detailed data collection, and the actual collection of the additional data through telephone contacts and other methods. Finally, the pilot test could use the hazmat crash data to demonstrate the system's ability to identify root cause and analyze the results from a number of crashes to pinpoint areas where suggestions can be made to improve hazmat safety.