Innovation Improves Railroad Safety

A recent article published by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) notes that technological innovations have dramatically increased the safety of United States freight railroads (The Eyes & Ears of Freight Rail). Over the last ten years, train accidents have decreased by ten percent and train derailments have declined by nine percent.

The following are some of the ways technology is making railroads safer:

Innovative “Ears”

Freight railroads have used ultrasound technology for years to determine the health of a section of railroad track, enabling them to discover invisible flaws before they cause an accident. Now new technology allows safety technicians to not only look, but listen, for imperfections in the track.

When a train travels over a section of track, energy is transmitted into the ground below, creating an acoustic signature, which varies depending on the health of the track. After using fiber-optic cable to analyze data from a test track, scientist can now detect the acoustic signature of a track that is on the verge of breaking.

“Eyes” in the Sky

Railroad safety experts are also taking to the air to utilize technologies to inspect tracks in places that would have once been impossible to access. Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, mounted with high-definition cameras, have explored thousands of miles of track in remote areas to guarantee that trains can travel safely through dangerous terrain.

Scientists are currently utilizing drones to accomplish a number of safety and environmental goals. For example, drones are being used to inspect areas where tracks have been unreachable due to encroaching floodwaters and to test the air quality to ensure compliance with environmental regulations.

Investment in Technology

The AAR article, as one might expect from an industry publication, stresses that these technological advances have only been possible due to private investments from the railroads themselves. However, these investments have only occurred in conjunction with massive federal subsidies from the United States Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration.

The railroad industry has proven that it will always emphasize profits over safety, so it is essential that these government agencies continue to provide them with financial incentives to keep our railroads safe through technological innovation. If you have been injured in a railroad accident, it is critical that you hire an experienced attorney. Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.

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