FRA Data Shows Decrease in Rail Accidents

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that, according to data from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), U.S. railroads had the lowest train accident rate on record in 2016. Also, derailment rates dropped 10 percent in 2016 from the previous year, and track-caused accident rates recorded all-time lows.

Statistics, calculated per million train miles using March 2017 FRA data, include:

  • Train accident rate - down 44 percent since 2000;
  • Equipment-caused accident rate - down 34 percent since 2000;
  • Track-caused accident rate - down 53 percent since 2000.
  • Derailment rate - down 44 percent since 2000.

"Safety is a never-ending, constant pursuit for the freight rail industry," stated Edward R. Hamberger, AAR president and CEO. "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."  

Employee on duty injury rate decreased by 1.8 percent in 2016 compared to 2015. Incidents at grade crossings were up by approximately 5 percent, partly due to increased highway transportation and highway accidents nationwide.

"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," noted 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."