2016 Safest Year Ever for U.S. Railroads

"From an advanced system that uses multidimensional ultrasonic technology to locate defects in tracks before they create problems, to the use of drones for track and bridge inspections, freight railroads are increasingly technology focused," said AAR CEO and President Edward R. Hamberger.

Citing Federal Railroad Administration data, the Association of American Railroads reported March 22 that U.S. railroads had the lowest train accident rate on record in 2016 -- 10 percent improvement from 2015, as track-caused accident rates were also at all-time lows. "The 2016 rail safety statistics continue a string of record-setting years, showing this period has been the safest ever for the rail sector," AAR reported.

The association said the key statistics, calculated per million train miles using March 2017 FRA data, include these:

  • The train accident rate is down 44 percent since 2000.
  • The equipment-caused accident rate is down 34 percent since 2000.
  • The track-caused accident rate is down 53 percent since 2000.
  • The derailment rate is down 44 percent since 2000.

"Safety is a never-ending, constant pursuit for the freight rail industry," said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. "Our goal remains zero incidents and zero injuries, but it is still noteworthy that railroads today are the safest they have ever been. We see clear benefits of our investments - made possible through an economic regulatory framework that allows railroads to earn the revenues needed to invest $635 billion since partial deregulation - and believe strongly in the application of new and transformative technologies."

During 2016, the employee on duty injury rate dropped by 1.8 percent from the 2015 fate. However, incidents at grade crossings rose by almost 5 percent.

"From an advanced system that uses multidimensional ultrasonic technology to locate defects in tracks before they create problems, to the use of drones for track and bridge inspections, freight railroads are increasingly technology focused," said Hamberger. "Such a dynamic environment requires flexible oversight, less focused on decades' worth of mandates - inspections, tests, certifications - and more on the safety metrics the industry continues to meet. Operating a safe railroad is ultimately good business."

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