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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR report outlines tech's influence on rail safety, reliability

Edward Hamberger
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The freight-rail industry has invested an estimated $100 billion in infrastructure, equipment and technology over the past four years to prepare for a 41 percent increase in freight shipments by 2040.

The investments have paid off by making U.S. railroads safer, with mainline accidents down 32 percent over the past decade, Association of American Railroads (AAR) officials said today, as they released a white paper highlighting how technology has improved rail network safety.

"America is home to the greatest freight rail network in the world, and we are putting technology to work to keep it that way," said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Hamberger in a press release. "Next-generation innovations like drones, lasers and automated technologies are revolutionizing how we run a railroad."

The white paper, which was released in conjunction with the AAR's first RailxTech event being held today in Washington, D.C., outlines how railroads have used technology to monitor the more than 1.6 million rail cars and about 40,000 locomotives operating across the 140,000-mile rail network.

Among the report's highlights:
• Railroads have deployed trackside detectors that use technology such as infrared and lasers to identify microscopic flaws in equipment as trains pass by at full speed. Real-time assessment of infrastructure and equipment has allowed railroads to schedule and conduct proactive maintenance, which improves safety as well as network fluidity and productivity.
• Software has been used to analyze factors such as systemwide train schedules, speed restrictions, crew schedules and other train operations to help train dispatchers manage and modify operations in real time.
• In-cab fuel management systems have improved fuel efficiency by up to 14 percent, which has helped railroads reduce their environmental footprint. Tier 4 locomotives have reduced emissions from diesel locomotives by as much as 90 percent and will continue to be phased into rail fleets nationwide.

"Building on the technology of today, such as positive train control and big data analytics, the industry will continue to do what it has always done for the American economy — deliver," Hamberger said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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