Transit Talking Points by: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director
When industries innovate, create and develop products, chances are they go through a process called quality assurance. That is to see whether the product and all its components and parts is meeting specified quality requirements before it is to be mass-produced at the factory.
In fact, many companies in the private sector have a specific department dedicated to QA so that prototypes and first article samples can be closely inspected and tested. Once released to production, a robust quality control process ensures such parts and assemblies are meeting the specified quality requirements. Investments in both of these processes have been known to ensure that better and top quality products end up in the marketplace, and both increase buyer and user confidence and the company's credibility.
However, if an issue were to slip through the QA process and such flaws end up into production, it can be a public relations embarrassment for the companies involved. Likewise, if a genuine product released to the factory floor has loopholes in production QC, similar hard lessons could surface in the news.
Last October, Metrolink announced that there was a potential safety flaw in the railroad's Hyundai Rotem cab cars and leased BNSF locomotives to maintain rail operations. That December, the LA Times broke the story of where the main issue lies and reported in June that repairs are underway.
Now, the railroad has taken legal action against the cab car maker.
Last Friday, the railroad took this problem to court and filed suit against the South Korean manufacturer. The lawsuit identifies specifically where the safety issue is. The situation dealt with the assembly fittings within the cab car's pilot, also known as the cowcatcher or cattle catcher located at the base of the locomotive or cab car which is designed to deflect obstacles on the track that might otherwise derail the train.
According the suit, the carbody weldments and pilot assemblies were found to be defective which could cause the pilot itself to dislodge. Unfortunately, this quality issue was not identified until after the 2015 Oxnard crash where the pilot broke off of the cab car after striking the truck which led to the derailment. As the investigation unfolded, inspectors found the defective parts on the car and further inspections of nearly every other Hyundai Rotem cab car revealed similar problems.
Reports show that Hyundai Rotem was not correcting this issue as demanded by the railroad which led to this civil dispute.
Because this case is still open in the court of law, I won't be pointing any fingers to anybody. We should let the facts play out. But I will predict that this situation is either a QA or QC problem because those defective parts should have never ended up on our trains in operations. QA ensures products in development meeets the specified quality standards. QC ensures products in production meets the quality requirements. Every part on our transportation infrastructure needs to go through these process. We cannot allow such quality flaws to slip into operations.
Let the proven QA and QC processes ensure that we are riding aboard safe and top quality transit fleets.