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Federal Government Announces New Railroad Safety Rule

We came across a piece of news recently that we think is of interest to anyone in the railroad construction field.

Late in August, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced it had updated its rules to allow railroads to use ultrasonic inspection technology — augmented with GPS — for continuous rail testing.

These updated rules will make it easier for railroads to test their rails more often and identify flaws, thus improving safety.

“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,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in an FRA news release.

Thanks to this rule, rail testing vehicles can move without stopping along the track, thereby reducing the number of freight and passenger delays typically connected to inspections.

“Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao is a strong advocate for safety through innovation, and these modernized standards will allow railroads to implement innovative inspection methods without the burden of applying for individual waivers with well-established safety records,” FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory said in the news release.

Over the past decade, the FRA has issued waivers to railroad engineering experts at larger companies to use this technology. It has led to a 27-percent decline in broken rail-caused train accidents between May 2019 and May 2020.

Giving all railroads the chance to use this technology can improve the safety record of the entire railroad industry.

These new regulations focus more on performance-based outcoming instead of dictating how companies carry out effective testing.

According to the FRA, railroads will be expected to use established methods for required rail inspections but will also have the freedom to use new technologies and methods once they’re proven effective and safe.

Continuous rail testing uses cars outfitted with GPS and ultrasonic technologies examining rails internally and without stopping.

As they move along the track, these cars collect imaging and location data, which they then transmit to monitoring sites so analysts can identify internal rail defects. Depending on how serious the defect is, carriers have 36-84 hours to send out an on-site railroad inspector.

If the railroad inspector verifies the defect, federal regulations call for immediate action, whether that’s repairing or replacing the rail, slowing trains over the defect or taking the track out of service until repairs are made.

The original regulations required vehicles conducting ultrasonic rail tests to repeatedly stop and manually inspect possible defects within four hours.

These frequent starts and stops can slow down train traffic and delay passenger and freight lines and only allows for 20 miles of testing per day. With continuous rail testing, a railroad inspector can test four to eight times as many miles of track per day.

The FRA estimates that one rail car using continuous testing could replace as many as five stop-and verify cars, saving the industry nearly $122 million in 10 years.

Midwest railroad contractor

Have you identified problem areas on your track? R & S Track can help. We pride ourselves on track maintenance and rehab for a variety of industries. Contact us today to learn more or to receive a price estimate.

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3 Industries That Rely on The Railroad System

According to the BLS, Railroads haul the most freight of any transport type in the US when you consider both the amount of weight carried as well as the sheer distance it must travel. It’s clear that without the railroad system, many industries would cease to operate as the sheer volume of their output would be impossible to carry by other other means to transportation. Supporting the claim that the railroad system is an integral part of the economic backbone of the country, the BLS also states that the railroad system is a great barometer of how well the economy is doing. Nevertheless, here are 3 industries that strongly rely on the railroad system to have their needs met.

1 – The Automotive Industry

It would be all too easy to state that the coal or steel industry relies on railroads the most, that would be a given. Who relies on steel? There are two “essential” industries that we will list below, but this is a good example of an industry that is more commercially oriented but strongly relies on freight. Not only are cars great, big pieces of steel put together well, but they’re also reliant on rail transport to get to where they need.

Sure, when you visit a dealership and they need to deliver your car before you can drive it home, perhaps that one car may be driven down or towed to your location, but how does all of the inventory get there? Multiple dealerships with hundreds of cars, they are not manufactured on location of course! These are things civilians outside of the industry do not consider. There are 40+ automotive plants in the United States alone, consider how many cars are produced in the country by the leading manufacturers. The railroad system carries all of their output to the respective states they need to end up in.

2 – Construction

Without train freight, construction would occur at a pace far too slow for anyone’s needs. Construction is always ongoing, as society continues to modernize to the latest advancements in architectural standards, developing new land, or renovating existing infrastructure, train freight supplies the materials. Steel, stone, wood, plastics, and minerals all heavy cargo and without powerful locomotives and well maintained tracks, they’d never make it there. According to the AAR (Association of American Railroads), freight railroads moved 1.5 million carloads of lumber, steel, and other materials in 2018. Not only that, but 20% of all steel products are immediately used for the purposes of construction after processing at steel mills.

3 – Food and Agriculture Products

The term “from farm to table” has become incredibly popular in recent years. As the developed world asks greater questions about what a good diet entails, how much meat we should eat, and what are the most sustainable methods of farming, agriculture, and consumption, the railroads are always at work to transport agricultural products under the current demands.

While freight carries many things relevant to farming such as fertilizers or goods such as canned foods, grain is one of the most important things transported. Things such as corn, oats, wheat, rice, barley, etc, are used in just about every food industry you can think of. These base ingredients are the essence of the country’s dietary needs; consider how much grain is needed to feed livestock alone.

Midwest Railroad Contractor

At RS Track, we pride ourselves on our track rehabilitation and maintenance. When the tracks are down, so too are these industries (and many more) that make up much of the country’s need for raw materials.

If you are seeking a qualified railroad track contractor, look no further than R&S Track. We boast a 100% customer satisfaction policy and are a compliant and certified Railroad Track Contractor.

Contact us today to receive price estimate or if you have any questions you’d like to ask us!