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How Safe Is U.S. Rail? [Infographic]

Five Class I railroads haul significant amounts of freight through America's Aerotropolis. [ Skip to Infographic. ] One container's derailment earlier this month prompted the question:

How safe are America's railroads?

The accident in question did not cause any injuries. Poplar Avenue was cleared within hours, thanks to competent work crews from Norfolk Southern, MLGW and the Memphis Fire Department.  Damaged railroad crossings are being repaired alongside routine track maintenance throughout Fayette and Shelby Counties. Averaging 21 trains through Memphis each day, Norfolk Southern anticipates less train traffic along Poplar after its new Crescent Corridor facility opens in Rossville later this year.

There were 1,337 train derailments across the United States in 2010. (Data from December 2011 have not yet been released.) What does this mean in context? The number is down a respectable 2.1% from the year before. It also represents an astonishing 40.2% decrease in derailments since 2001.  

Should fewer accidents be attributed to fewer railway miles?

No. Mileage rose and fell, but safety continued to improve almost every year of the past decade. Mileage ranged from a high in 2006 (812,509,002 train miles) to a low in 2009 (671,946,806 train miles). In fact, there was only a 0.5% decrease in mileage when comparing 2001 (711,549,906 train miles) with 2010 (708,161,145 train miles).

More tellingly, the total rail accident / incident rate has greatly improved, with a 28% improvement in safety from 2001 to 2010. Edward R. Hamberger, President and CEO of the Association of American Railroads, attributed this trend to modernization of the industry: Freight railroads have made record investments in technology, infrastructure and equipment.

Infographic: How Safe Is U.S. Rail?

How Safe Is U.S. Rail?

- Marly Hazen
Guest blogger: Marly is a member of the Regional Logistics Council's Workforce Development Committee. She is also Editor of CTSI-Global's multimedia supply chain blog.


Bill Carrier
Think how much safer commuter travel would be by rail. Any future plans for high speed commuter transport? The green line claimed a great route for that.
2/27/2012 3:31:25 PM
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