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Risk-Based Inspection Programs

Risked-based Inspection Program

On October 21, 2022, FTA issued special directives to all State Safety Oversight Agencies (SSOAs), the agencies that oversee safety at rail transit systems, to develop and implement risk-based inspection programs in accordance with changes to FTA’s Public Transportation Safety Program as required by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. While some SSOAs are already using risk-based inspections, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law made this a requirement for all SSOAs.

Risk-Based Inspections and Rail Transit Safety

A risk-based inspection program uses qualitative and quantitative data analysis to identify safety concerns and hazards associated with the highest levels of risk. Inspectors can then use data to inform their inspection practices, with the goal improving safety by prioritizing and addressing hazards.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law identified actions that FTA, SSOAs, and rail transit agencies (RTAs) must take to implement effective risk-based inspection programs. The requirements for each entity are identified below.



  • Issue a special directive to each SSOA requiring the development and implementation of a risk-based inspection program.
  • Assess the capability of each SSOA to conduct risk-based inspections compliant with 49 U.S.C. § 5329, which details the requirements for public transportation safety programs. 



  • Develop and implement a risk-based inspection program in accordance with 49 U.S.C. § 5329 (k) and the special directive.
  • Develop and begin to implement the risk-based inspection program no later than two years after receiving the special directive (by October 21, 2024).



  • Coordinate with their SSOA on policies and procedures for inspection access and data collection and incorporate these policies into their Agency Safety Plan.
  • Share with SSOAs the data the RTA collects when identifying and evaluating safety risks. 


On October 21, 2022, FTA issued special directives to all SSOAs requiring each to develop and implement a risk-based inspection program.

To meet the requirements outlined in the special directive, each SSOA must first submit documentation demonstrating that it has developed a risk-based inspection program, which FTA must review and approve. Once approved, the SSOA can begin implementation and has one year to submit evidence that it has been operating the approved program for at least six months. FTA will then verify that the SSOA has effectively implemented the risk-based inspection program before closing the special directive.

While SSOAs may move through this process at different rates, the dates for developing and implementing a risk-based inspection program are outlined below.

Milestone Date/Time Frame
FTA issued special directive and toolkit to SSOAs October 21, 2022
SSOA submits risk-based inspection program development requirements to FTA Fall 2023–Summer 2024
FTA reviews and approves risk-based inspection program development requirements No later than October 21, 2024
SSOA implements the approved program May begin as soon as FTA approves the SSOA’s program development requirements, but no later than October 21, 2024 
SSOA submits evidence to FTA that it has implemented the approved program for at least six months Due within 1 year of the date FTA approves the program development requirements
FTA reviews and verifies that SSOA has implemented the approved program Will vary by SSOA
FTA closes special directive Will vary by SSOA

Frequently Asked Questions

RBI1: When will SSOAs submit risk-based inspection program development plan requirements to FTA?

A: SSOAs will submit their documentation between fall 2023 and summer 2024.

RBI2: What kind of documentation is required to satisfy the requirements of Category 1: Authority to Perform Risk-Based Inspections?

A: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the special directives on risk-based inspections require that an SSOA have the authority to: 1) enter the facilities of the RTA, 2) inspect RTA activities, including infrastructure, equipment, records, personnel, and date, and 3) conduct inspections with and without advance notice. The SSOA must submit their program standard language that is unambiguous and detailed about this authority. In addition, SSOAs must provide documentation of their legal authority to conduct these inspections, which should include citation to the relevant authority (e.g., state administrative code or statute) and a narrative description explaining why this authority is sufficient (e.g., memo or opinion from the SSOA legal counsel).