May 1, 2023

How the Federal Railroad Administration Ensures Track Inspection Specialists Maintain Training Standards

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and it is the federal agency responsible for ensuring the safety of America’s rail network. As they state:

“The Federal Railroad Administration’s mission is to enable the safe, reliable, and efficient movement of people and goods for a strong America, now and in the future.”

To say the responsibility of the FRA is complex is an understatement. The people who work for the FRA inspect hundreds of thousands of miles of railway track. They must also inspect grade crossings, hazardous materials, railway equipment, operating procedures and practices, plus signal and train control.

In addition, the responsibilities of the FRA include:

  • Railroad safety and stakeholder training (including U.S. state safety inspectors)
  • Accident and employee fatality investigations and reporting
  • Partnerships between labor, management, and the agency that addresses systemic initiatives
  • Development and implementation of safety rules and standards

The work of the FRA is crucial for the safety of millions of people, including passengers who use trains for business or leisure. But track and railroad safety also impact people who live near railroads, those who work on the railroads, and people who rely on the cargo and freight that’s transported by train.

Almost 400 Federal Railway Safety Inspectors are spread out around the United States, focusing their energy on ensuring the safety of America’s railroad network. There is no room for error. Their inspections must be precise, or a railroad disaster could take place. These disasters can result in loss of life, major injuries, infrastructure damage, plus commercial and legal problems.

The inspectors who work for the FRA must have access to the latest knowledge, and they must stay up to date on their skills. The inspectors must also have the latest technology to do their inspections and they must know how to use this technology. This presents a massive training challenge for a distributed workforce.

Implementing a Flexible Training Program

The FRA has two major goals with its training programs. First, the programs must bring new inspectors fully up to speed so they can go out into the field and perform inspections correctly. Second, the agency must keep its current inspectors trained in the latest technology and technical advances.

In addition, managers at the FRA must design the training and make sure that the almost 400 inspectors engage with the training and pass the required exams.

The responsibility for the training falls on the shoulders of David Casaceli. His official title is Railroad Safety Specialist, Technical Training (Track). Casaceli must ensure that safety inspectors have the knowledge to inspect track and other parts of the railroad system.

The training must ensure that inspectors:

  • Have full technical knowledge at all times
  • Ensure safety protocols are followed
  • Can provide guidance to state inspectors
  • Can inspect in the field and on any track
  • Administer the Automated Track Inspection Program (ATIP) and the Workplace Safety Program
  • Perform accident investigations as needed

For decades, training took place in a classroom environment. However, leadership elected to move toward virtual training. The COVID-19 pandemic moved this transition forward at a faster pace.

The first challenge was not technical but administrative. Casaceli initially had to keep track of everyone who took training manually, using email and a series of spreadsheets.

“It was an administrative nightmare,” said Casaceli.

Fortunately, the FRA partnered with Anthology to adopt Blackboard® Learn. Blackboard Learn includes an administration feature that automatically tracks engagement and testing. This instantly saved Casaceli hundreds of hours of time. It also ensured full accessibility for all safety inspectors.

Casaceli and other team members could create courses on the learning platform for:

  • Existing inspectors who needed to keep up with new technology and responsibilities
  • New hires who come from a wide variety of backgrounds and must learn Federal Standards and all the inspection responsibilities

Ask Casaceli who designs and creates the training content, and his answer is “me.”

Blackboard Learn provides Casaceli with the tools and the platform to create the content, boost engagement, and distribute the content. The FRA has a culture of constant improvement and learning. Blackboard Learn buttresses this culture.

In addition, Blackboard Learn helps to organize a large and diverse library of technical materials. When Casaceli posts new content to the library, Blackboard Learn automatically lets stakeholders know that the content is available.

Training is Crucial for Safety

Inspecting hundreds of thousands of miles of railroad track, often in remote and challenging areas, is crucial yet difficult work. The safety inspectors must spot potential or current problems immediately to help prevent accidents.

The training must be well designed, current, relevant, and easy to access. Blackboard Learn plays a vital role in helping the safety inspectors with the FRA conduct their work. Want to learn more about the Federal Railroad Administration and their use of Blackboard Learn? Watch the video today. Or visit our website to learn more about Blackboard Learn for Government.

Topics: Government, LMS
Headshot of Celena Westlund

Celena Westlund

Senior Marketing Manager for Business and Government

Westlund joined Anthology in 2021, bringing nearly 11 years of government and marketing experience, including over 7 years at the U.S. Institute of Peace and 3.5 years at a MarTech company. In her role at Anthology, she works to create awareness and demand for our EdTech solutions in federal, state, and local governments, and within corporate entities. Westlund graduated from Washington State University with an M.A. in strategic communication and previously earned an M.A. from American University in international peace and conflict resolution, with a focus on conflict in the Southern Balkans.