NTSB Reauthorization Proposal- Part II

In Part I of this post, we described various provisions in S. 2202, the National Transportation Safety Board Reauthorization Act, as reported by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on December 13, 2017. There we focused on those sections of the bill that would be of particular interest to our readers. In this post, we focus on bill provisions that would directly affect NTSB operations and activities — provisions that will also be of considerable interest to our readers.

As briefly indicated last time, several of the NTSB provisions, if enacted, will impose operational and resource challenges to the agency.  Although these provisions make sense conceptually, it is clearly too early to assess the likely benefits to NTSB decision making and public transparency.

  1. Report on Most Wanted List Methodology (section 7):
    • Would require the NTSB to prepare a report describing “the methodology used to select recommendations to be included” in each Most Wanted List it issues. (The 2017-2018 List is available here). The report must include a description of: how the agency accounts for the “risk of safety addressed in each of its recommendations”; the types of data, reports, or studies used to identify safety risks; the reduction of the safety risk over time by implementation of each recommendation; alternate means of reducing the safety risk; the extent to which the agency considered prior investigations and safety recommendations or other actions in selecting each Most Wanted List recommendation.  The provision would also require the agency to consult with other Federal agencies in developing the called-for methodology.
  2. Methodology Section in Board Reports Containing Safety Recommendations (Section 8)
    • Would require the agency, within 2 years of enactment of 2202 to include in each investigative report that includes any safety recommendations a methodology section describing the “process and information underlying the selection of each recommendation.” The methodology section would include summaries of: the agency’s collection and analysis of accident investigation information relevant to each specific recommendation; any alternative actions the agency considered; and examples of actions taken by regulated entities prior to publication of the safety recommendation. [Note: During the mark-up session on December 13, the Committee adopted an amendment by Senator Blumenthal making clear that section 8 should not be construed to delay the NTSB Board in issuing any urgent recommendations to avoid immediate loss, death, or injury].
  3. Multi-Modal Accident Database Management System (Section 9)
    • Would require the agency, within 1 year of enactment of 2202 to establish and maintain an accident database management system for agency investigators.
  4. Periodic Review of Safety Recommendations (Section 12)
    • This sweeping provision would require the NTSB no later than June 1, 2019, and subject to public comment, to complete a “comprehensive review” of its safety recommendations classified as “Open”. [Note: NTSB’s public database currently lists over 1000 “Open” safety recommendations].  The review of each recommendation would include consideration of public comments received, an assessment of whether the recommendation is “outmoded, unclear, or unnecessary” and a determination by the agency as to whether to update, close, or reissue the recommendation.

As promised previously, we will continue to advise of further developments as the NTSB reauthorization proposal moves forward in the legislative process.

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