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Railroad Safety Dan Feltes Introduction Importance of Rail Safety: First Fundamental Cannon of the ASCE: Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public and shall strive to comply with the principles of sustainable [1]

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Railroad Safety

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railroad safety

Railroad Safety

Dan Feltes

  • Importance of Rail Safety:
    • First Fundamental Cannon of the ASCE:
      • Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public and shall strive to comply with the principles of sustainable [1]
    • The “Highest Priority of the Federal Railroad Administration is the Safety of the US railroad system” [2]
  • Safest form of major Land Transportation
    • Over a period of time, Railroad travel remains the safest mode…[3]
  • Safety is Important for the Potentially high risk
    • …but the hazard potential if train and railroad maintenance operations must be respected [3]
    • High quantities of Hazardous wastes traveling at High speed offer enormous opportunity for catastrophe…Yet, rail is orders of magnitude more safe than highway-truck transportation.
      • Rail Versus Truck: A Perspective On Safetyhttp://www.uprr.com/uprr/she/cts/rvtruck.shtml
from the text
From the Text...
  • Training
    • Link Between Safety and Freight Claims
      • Two elements are often placed in one organization because technology training and discipline to minimize personal injury and equipment also contribute toward reducing damaged shipments [3]
  • Safety and Accident Reporting
    • Required by law since 1910
    • Change in reporting of accidents in 1979
      • Casualties- Defined as Any accident requiring medical attention rater than those involving lost work days. [3]
      • Train Accident > $6,200 (1994)> Train Incident
      • Train Accidents added up to $180 million dollars of damage in 1994
      • 43% lower than 15 years prior
      • Train Incidents account for 90% of all railroad operations fatalities

Just the Facts and Stats

  • More people die in highway-rail crashes each year than incommercial airline crashes in an average year. [4]
  • In the US, approximately every 115 minutes (or 2 hours) a train collides with a person or a vehicle. [4]
  • A motorist is 40 times more likely to die in a collision with a train than in a collision with another motor vehicle [4]
  • However… Rail passengers are extremely safe; in fact, since 1980 fewer people have died in rail passenger accidents than die in two days on the nation's highways [5]
breakdown of accidents
Breakdown of Accidents
  • Rail Crossing Account for more than 50% of all railroad Fatalities
    • And 50% of Rail Crossing Fatalities were at active crossing systems (systems with a minimum of cross bars and lights)
  • By far the biggest safety issues faced by railroads involve highway-rail grade crossings and trespassers
  • During 1996, more than 92 percent of all rail-related fatalities involved either grade crossings or trespassers --958 out of 1,039
  • These sobering statistics lead to the development of educational programs like Operation Lifesaver


railroad crossings
Railroad Crossings

“A tin can is to a car... as a car is to a train”- unknown

  • Examples of Railroad Crossings:
    • Operation Lifesaver
      • http://www.oli.org/ets.html#signs
  • Crossing Crash Statistics For 1998
    • Ames
    • Iowa Crossing Incidents - safetydata.fra.dot.gov/OfficeofSafety/Default.asp
      • Public Crossing 90 Percent of National Ave 2.91%
      • Private Crossing 14 Percent of National Ave 3.31%
    • National Crossing Incidents - safetydata.fra.dot.gov/OfficeofSafety/Default.asp
      • Public Crossing 3,086
      • Private Crossing 422
internal railroad issues
Internal Railroad Issues
  • Employee Accidents
  • Trespassing Accidents
railroad safety organizations
Railroad Safety Organizations
  • Federal Railroad Association (FRA)- www.fra.dot.gov/o/safety/index.htm
    • The FRA, has the responsibility for ensuring railroad safety throughout the nation : To monitor railroad compliance with federally mandated safety standards, FRA employs 400 inspectors operating out of 47 offices throughout the country
  • Operation Lifesaver -www.oli.org/oli/index.html
    • An answer to FRA need for better public railroad safety awarness, Operation Lifesaver is:a nationwide, non-profit public information program dedicated to eliminating collisions, injuries and fatalities at highway-rail grade crossings and on railroad rights-of-way.
  • National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) www.ntsb.gov/Railroad/railroad.htm
    • A federal organization responsible for investigating significant transportation accidents
  • OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
    • Government agency created to insure a safe workplace for all railroad employees
r r company safety departments
R&R Company Safety Departments
  • Union Pacific Railroad- www.uprr.com/uprr/she/ol.shtml
  • CSX- www.csx.com/aboutus/financial/safety/
  • Canada National Railway (CN)-


    • Safest Company
  • Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad- www.bnsf.com/about_bnsf/
local safety issues
Local Safety Issues
  • Recent Accident in NW Iowa
    • NEAR ALTON, Iowa, Nov. 18th. Two trains were on the same stretch of track when they collided around 11:15 Wednesday [11/17/99] night.
    • http://msnbc.com/local/KTIV/58277.asp
  • Duff Crossing Improvements
    • Traffic Cameras
    • Crossing Surface Repairs
  • New Automated Horn Warning System
    • Provides for safer crossing and lowers noise pollution
    • www.dot.state.ia.us/trainhorn.htm
  • Old Train Wreck
infamous accidents
  • Worst Accident on Record
    • Modane, France 12/17/1917
      • Brakes fail on an overloaded train returning from the Italian front during WWI
      • Approximately 800 French troops perish
      • http://danger-ahead.railfan.net/accidents/modane/home.html
  • Potentially Worst Accident (No Records)
    • Samastipur, India 6/6/1981
      • Seriously overcrowded train
      • Few Facts no official inquiry…
      • Some estimates include 3000 fatalities
      • http://danger-ahead.railfan.net/accidents/samastipur/home.html
  • Worst Domestic Accident
    • Nashville, TN 7/18/1918
      • 101 Casualties []
future of rail safety
Future of Rail Safety
  • Research and Development Centers
  • New Safety Technology

1 American Society of Civil Engineers website at: http://www.asce.org/aboutasce/codeofethics.html

2 Ditmeyer, Steven. Railroad Safety Research. TR News. July-August 1999, Number 203

3 Armstrong, John A. The Railroad What it is, What it Does. 4th Ed. Simmons-Boardman Books. p. 269-273. 1998.

4 Operation Lifesavers website at: http://www.oli.org/hrfactsterms.html

5 North American Freight Railroad Online at: http://www.aar.org/comm/statfact.nsf/5406ac733125e6c7852564d000737b60/92643425e41f23d5852564f0006ae6df?OpenDocument

6 Federal Railroad Administration Website at