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Setting record straight on rail safety forum

2014-05-05T00:00:00Z 2014-05-05T09:01:06Z Setting record straight on rail safety forum The Billings Gazette
May 05, 2014 12:00 am

In the AP article "Rail safety effort marred by squabbling" published April 24, my remarks at the NTSB Rail Safety Forum on Transport of Crude Oil and Ethanol were badly misrepresented. What I actually said is that broken rails account for approximately four times more rail cars derailed than so-called "PTC-preventable" accidents.

As was discussed by me and others present, railroads devote considerable resources to finding these defects and removing them before a broken rail can occur. In fact the U.S. railroad derailment rate in 2013 was the lowest since the government began recording data in the mid-1970s, due to substantial investment in rail infrastructure and technology.

Given the importance of preventing these accidents, more research is needed to develop better means to find defects before a rail breaks. Unfortunately, current regulatory policy discourages more frequent testing of railroad rails and should be revised to encourage what is known as "continuous testing."

Christopher Barkan

Executive director

Rail Transportation and Engineering


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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