The Association of American Railroads (AAR) released today its first "State of the Industry Report" focusing on the key challenges, accomplishments and innovations within the freight railroad industry. This initial, five-chapter edition details the industry's investments in new technology and innovation that are enhancing safety across the nation's rail network.
The reports are designed to inform lawmakers, the business community and the public about the freight railroad industry's top priorities. This edition features the input of experts such as John Tunna, Director of the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) Office of Research & Development, and Tony Sultana, a Principal Investigator at the Transportation Technology Center Inc. (TTCI). "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 CEO, Edward R. 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." Today's report focuses on items such as safety investment, the role of "big data" in diagnosing and solving problems, the continued commitment by the rail industry to implement Positive Train Control (PTC) technology as quickly and effectively as possible, emerging technologies such as drones and community-based training and outreach. Through input from experts like Tunna and Sultana, as well as the Security and Emergency Response Training Center (SERTC), RailInc. and AskRail, AAR shows how the industry is continuing to address safety in an industry where the train accident rate has fallen 45 percent since 2000 and 80 percent since 1980. "The exciting thing right now is that technology is moving into the transportation field at a rapid rate," Tunna said in the report. The report showcases new safety advancements that the industry is taking. For instance, technologists are developing a sophisticated ultrasonic detection system that allows a better view into steel rail to locate track defects before they can cause problems. The industry is also investigating the use of unmanned aerial vehicles - or drones - for inspection of track, bridge and other freight rail infrastructure, as well as monitoring air quality. Hamberger says the ultimate takeaway from AAR's first State of the Industry Report is clear: an increased emphasis on rail network investments - $25 billion annually over the last five years on average - collaboration with customers and government and the development of new technologies combine to improve safety. "The sweeping reduction in freight rail accidents and injuries over the last several decades is the result of stepped-up employee training as well as a dedicated team of safety experts who conduct rigorous research, examine problems in new ways, apply technological advances and novel changes to processes that ultimately make a safe system of transportation even safer," said Hamberger. "We are proud of the industry's efforts, including those highlighted in this report, and look forward to promoting more developments in the future." The AAR will issue multiple such reports each year, including two more in 2016, with each individual report focusing on a particular theme.