The letter, which was sent to 47 of the nation’s railroads, comes in the wake of an Amtrak train derailment on Dec. 18 that killed three.
Rail experts said that Positive Train Control, the automatic braking technology, could have slowed down the train. The technology was installed on the train, but not operational, USA Today reported.
“Advancing the implementation of Positive Train Control is among the most important rail safety initiatives on the department’s agenda,” Chao told the newspaper.
In the letter, Chao called Positive Train Control “critical rail-safety technology,” according to Reuters.
The braking technology provides signals between tracks, trains, and dispatch centers that slows down or stops trains at the appropriate signals if an engineer does not respond. Equipment must be installed along tracks and in train engines, then coordinated between engineers and dispatchers, the USA Today report said.
Piecemeal installation of the technology has cost billions, and the program also has faced technical issues and hindrances in obtaining right of way, the report said.
Chao said after reviewing recent data, railroads are behind schedule and need to ramp up efforts to meet the deadline, the USA Today report said.