Federal regulations require most railways to install voice, video recorders by late 2022

Rail operators in Canada have two years to install black boxes on their trains after the federal government published regulations in the Canada Gazette on Wednesday setting out the new safety requirements. 

“A considerable amount of research and consultation has gone into the robust regulations for the use of locomotive voice and video recording technology in Canada,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement. 

“I am encouraged by the significant benefits when this technology is used proactively to enhance rail safety management and prevent future accidents.”

The information gathered from the video and voice recorders will be used by investigators to study rail accidents and by railway companies looking to identify potential risks to rail safety.

Companies will be required to install the recording devices on every train they operate if they meet at least one of three conditions: 

  • The company earned $250 million gross revenues in Canada in each of the last two years and operates on more than eight kilometres of track in Canada. 
  • The company operates a passenger service in a city or between municipalities.
  • The company has more than 15 staff, operates on more than 32 kilometres of track with at least one train that goes faster than 40 km/h and conducts more than 10 per cent of its gross ton miles on Canadian track.

Questions of privacy

Companies exempt from the new regulations include steam locomotives and trains used exclusively for tourists and travel under 40 km/h. Trains used exclusively in service yards, trains used for testing or trains scheduled to be taken out of use by February 2024 are also exempt. 

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has been asking for the regulations for more than a decade, but it remains unclear how the new regulations will be received by railway unions and companies. 

In the past, unions have expressed concerns about audio recordings because engineers and conductors spend many hours together during long shifts and discuss very personal subjects with one another.

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