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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR cites technology, investment for freight-rail safety gains

AAR President and CEO Ed Hamberger
Photo – AAR.org


U.S. railroads had the lowest train accident rate on record last year according to Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) data, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) announced yesterday.

Derailment rates, which fell 10 percent in 2016 from 2015, and track-caused accident rates are at all-time lows, AAR officials said in a press release.

Additionally, the employee-on-duty injury rate dropped 1.8 percent in 2016 compared with 2015.

There is a strong correlation between safety gains and the research, development and implementation of new technology, as well as sustained private spending averaging $26 billion annually in recent years, AAR officials believe.

"Our goal remains zero incidents and zero injuries, but it is still noteworthy that railroads today are the safest they have ever been," said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Hamberger. "We see clear benefits of our investments — made possible through an economic regulatory framework that allows railroads to earn the revenues needed to invest $635 billion since partial deregulation — and believe strongly in the application of new and transformative technologies."

AAR noted that since 2000, the train accident rate is down 44 percent; equipment-caused accident rate is down 34 percent; track-caused accident rate is down 53 percent; and the derailment rate is down 44 percent. Those statistics were calculated per million train miles using March 2017 FRA data, according to AAR.

Freight-rail leaders believe that safety improvements support the industry's goal to streamline government processes, incentivizing the FRA and other government entities to focus less on prescriptive steps and more on desired outcomes, AAR officials said.

"From an advanced system that uses multidimensional ultrasonic technology to locate defects in tracks before they create problems, to the use of drones for track and bridge inspections, freight railroads are increasingly technology-focused," added Hamberger. "Such a dynamic environment requires flexible oversight, less focused on decades' worth of mandates — inspections, tests, certifications — and more on the safety metrics the industry continues to meet. Operating a safe railroad is ultimately good business."