Railroads On a Roll

2010 was the safest year in the history of U.S. freight railroading.

The Association of American Railroads reported March 15 that 2010 was the safest year in the history of U.S. freight railroading, with the number of train accidents involving Class I freight railroads falling by 3 percent and the number of employee casualties falling by 14.2 percent. A few days earlier, the Transportation Technology Center (TTC), an AAR R&D and testing subsidiary that furthers safety and operational efficiency, celebrated a year without a lost-time work day case.

In addition, train derailments dropped to historic lows in 2010, falling 9.6 percent from 2009. Train accidents caused by defective track, human error, and equipment fell by 9.4 percent, 9.6 percent, and 14.2 percent, respectively. Grade crossing collisions rose for the first time in six years, however, increasing by 7.8 percent from the 2009 level.

AAR based its calculations on Federal Railroad Administration preliminary year-end data. "These safety accomplishments demonstrate the depth of the freight railroad industry's commitment to the safety of our employees, the communities we serve, and the country's rail network infrastructure," said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. "Safety is not an option for the railroads. It drives how we conduct our business day in and day out. The safety challenge is never-ending. Our industry's excellent safety record reflects its commitment to innovation and investment."

He said record investments by freight railroads in infrastructure, equipment, and technology in recent years have made railroads much safer, noting that as railroads are working to meet the most expensive federal mandate in U.S. railroad history by installing positive train control systems, railroads are experiencing record-low collision rates, down 13 percent in 2010 from the previous record low in 2009. The train collision rate has dropped by 89.9 percent since 1980 and 47 percent since 2000, according to AAR.

TTC is located near Pueblo, Colo. TTC Safety Manager Terry Terrill congratulated employees of the center for a year without a lost-time workday during a celebratory breakfast. "Employee safety is a part of our culture at TTC. We look out for one another. And with a lost-time frequency rate of 0.94, the statistics show that we take ownership of our safety," he said.

This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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