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Increase automation to decrease accidents, appeals Association of American Railroads.

Posted on May 9, 2018

Rail freight"We hope this is the beginning of an ongoing conversation about how it can be put to work across the world’s best freight rail network."

A US rail network that relies more heavily on automation would increase safety and reliability and circumvent the cause of a third of all train accidents in the country: human error. That’s the view of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), the US trade group that focuses on the safety and productivity of the US freight industry, which published comments directed at the Department of Transportation (DoT)’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on how “regulatory barriers” were preventing more widespread use of the incident-reducing technology. 

Also making the plea to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the AAR said the use of automated infrastructure was already reducing or removing the impact of human error on the rail network but implored the FRA and PHMSA (@PHMSA_DOT) to not allow the programme to lose momentum as a result of red tape.

Despite there being no single industry-wide plan or schedule for automation, the AAR requested that the DoT gives the US rail industry the same supportive regulatory approach that it had already extended to the automation of trucks and cars. “Automation can and will enhance the safety of the rail network, and the railroads are anxious to work with regulators to facilitate its implementation,” read a statement on the AAR website.

AAR president and CEO, Edward R. Hamberger, praised the US’s safety record but argued that a “paradigm shift” was required to make further progress. “Emerging automated technology now makes it possible to envision, and more importantly build, a future free from the cause of one-third of all train accidents – human error.”

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“The Department of Transportation (@USDOT) has encouraged the development and deployment of this game-changing technology in other transportation sectors, and we hope this is the beginning of an ongoing conversation about how it can be put to work across the world’s best freight rail network," said Hamberger.

The technology espoused by the AAR (@AAR_FreightRail) have according to the group already yielded dramatic rail safety benefits and include automated track inspections and wayside detectors that can pinpoint track and equipment defects not visible to the human eye. The arrival of positive train control (PTC) is expected to improve the safety of the US rail network further still, with the official date set for the communication-based train control (CBTC) set for introduction at the end of this year.

According to FRA data, safety has improved dramatically with incident rates on the US rail network in 2016 the lowest on record. The data also showed that, for every million train miles since 2000, the train accident rate was down 44%, with equipment-caused accident rates down 38%.


The FRA will be speaking at this year’s SafeRail, which takes place in Washington D.C on June 11-12th, 2018. With an agenda that includes a focus on PTC, companies in attendance include Canadian National Railway, MTA Long Island Rail Road, Dallas Area Rapid Transit and Maryland Transit Administration.



Successfully Managing IT Change Within Rail An Insider Guide You may also like this from SmartRail World…

Read: Amtrak says it may suspended services on tracks without PTC from 2019.

Read: US Transport Secretary "concerned" about PTC implementation.

Read: Alstom to test autonomous-style freight trains in bid to improve safety and increase efficiency.

Visit: SafeRail, June 11-12th, 2018.

Watch: The US safety group helping keep selfie-seekers safer on the tracks.

Topics: Signalling, TransportSecurity

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Dave Songer
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