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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

U.S. railroads post progress in avoiding train accidents, preventing employee fatalities this year, AAR says


During 2005’s first nine months, U.S. railroads’ employee casualty rate dropped 15.9 percent compared with the same 2004 period, according to preliminary Federal Railroad Administration data. Coupled with 2004’s last quarter, the 12-month period was the safest-ever for railroad employees, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

“This is a particularly satisfying achievement in light of the fact we have so many new employees entering the industry,” said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger in a prepared statement.

During the period, railroads’ train accident rate of 3.87 per million train miles declined 10.4 percent compared with a rate of 4.32 during 2004’s first nine months. The yard accident rate dropped 14.9 percent, accidents caused by human factors decreased 14.7 percent, accidents caused by equipment defects fell 17.6 percent and accidents caused by signal problems declined 6.1 percent.

“We’re continuing to look at new technology that has the potential to sharply improve rail safety,” said Hamberger. “One example is positive train control, which reduces the chance of human error, the leading cause of train accidents.”

Meanwhile, the highway-rail grade crossing incident rate decreased 8.8 percent compared with 2004’s first nine months and remained on pace to be railroads’ lowest-ever annual rate. Crossing fatalities dropped 7.4 percent, but trespasser fatalities increased 6.5 percent, although the trespasser incident rate declined slightly.

“The drop in the grade crossing rate is the result of … Operation Lifesaver and the efforts railroads have made to work with highway authorities to identify crossings that can be closed, as well as those needing upgrades,” said Hamberger.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/20/2005