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Rail News: Shippers

FRA's Feinberg to NARS: Embrace technology to improve safety


By Julie Sneider, Senior Associate Editor

In a speech delivered last week to the North American Rail Shippers Association (NARS), Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Sarah Feinberg called on the rail industry to embrace technology and the collection and sharing of data as part of their efforts to improve safety.

Feinberg spoke May 25 at the NARS annual meeting held in Arlington, Va. In her delivered remarks, she suggested rail-sector businesses consider sharing certain types of operations data with each other and federal regulators as part of the solution to improving the safety of shipping freight by rail.

The U.S. freight-rail network represents a $60 billion industry consisting of 140,000 rail miles and providing 221,000 jobs. Calculated by weight and miles traveled, the rail network accounts for about 40 percent of U.S. freight. That will increase as the U.S. population continues to grow, Feinberg noted.

To that end, shippers, railroads and regulators will need to work together to find ways to move those goods safely. She described the federal rulemaking process, but also noted there should be additional ways to advance freight-by-rail safety.

"I think one of the best ways for industries and regulators to improve safety ... is to embrace technology and the data that comes along with that technology," said Feinberg.

She noted the tremendous amount of data collection that already exists in the industry, which railroads and shippers use to analyze business operations and the potential for safety and efficiency improvements.

"You have been collecting this data and looking for patterns for years," said Feinberg. "But I would urge you to consider ... sharing it with each other and also sharing it with your regulator."

By sharing certain data, regulators and industry can work together to address  problems as they emerge and potentially prevent the next safety incident from occurring, she said.

"I do not consider myself a success if I complete 50 regulations or rulemakings," Feinberg said. "FRA will consider ourselves and our work a success if we prevent accidents, if we end fatalities and if we prevent injuries."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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