The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), an agency in the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), recently posted a final rule in the Federal Register allowing railroads to utilize ultrasonic inspection technology, supported by global positioning systems (GPS), to perform continuous rail testing ().
These new regulations are intended to improve railroad safety through more frequent rail testing, resulting in the identification and repair of internal flaws before rail conditions have degraded. “This rule will allow railroads to use the latest technology to continually monitor safety, which is a big step forward in strengthening safety and reliability on our nation’s railroads,” United States Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao said.
Under this regulatory reform, rail testing vehicles will be able to move along the track without stopping, leading to fewer passenger and freight train delays caused by routine inspections. Due to rapidly changing technologies, regulators must continually modify regulations to ensure public safety, while also allowing railroads to employ innovative inspection methods.
“Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao is a strong advocate for safety through innovation,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory. “These modernized standards will allow railroads to implement innovative inspection methods without the burden of applying for individual waivers with well-established safety records.”
Larger railroads have been developing and utilizing this technology under FRA waivers for the past 10 years, leading to a 27% reduction in broken rail-caused train accidents. It is hoped that allowing all railroads to use this technology will improve the overall safety record of the industry.
Under current regulations, ultrasonic rail test vehicles have to repeatedly stop and manually inspect possible defects. Because of this frequent starting and stopping, trains operating in the area are forced to travel at slower speeds, leading to passenger and freight traffic delays.
Companies utilizing existing methods are generally capable of testing only about 20 miles of track a day. In contrast, companies are able to test 80 to 160 miles of track daily using continuous rail testing.
It is important for the FRA to continue to rely on improving technology to help achieve its mission of enabling “the safe, reliable, and efficient movement of people and goods for a strong America, now and in the future.” Because the railroad industry will always prioritize profits, railroad safety can only be assured through economic efficiency created by 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.