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The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today released the first of its "state of the industry" reports focusing on rail industry challenges and accomplishments.The initial five-chapter edition details the industry's investments in new technology and innovation designed to enhance safety across the U.S. rail network, AAR officials said in a press release.The association will issue two additional reports this year, with each focusing on a different theme.The reports are intended to inform lawmakers, the business community and the public about top priorities for the freight-rail industry, AAR officials said."Our industry maintains its leadership position through innovations designed to improve the performance of our employees, our equipment and even the rail itself," said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Hamberger. "This new report outlines how the railroad industry provides innovative, on-the-ground technologies and community programs that safeguard our customers' cargo, the communities we serve and our employees." The report issued today also focuses on the role of "big data" in diagnosing and solving problems, the industry's commitment to implement positive train control "as quickly and effectively as possible," emerging technologies such as drones, and community-based training and outreach, AAR officials said.Among the new safety advances discussed in the report is an ultrasonic detection system that allows a better view into steel rail to locate track defects before they can cause problems. Additionally, the industry is exploring the use of drones for inspection of track, bridge and other infrastructure, as well as for monitoring air quality.The report also notes that the train accident rate has fallen by 79 percent compared with 1980.