The Federal Railroad Administration and Technology The Federal Railroad Administration creates and enforces safety regulations for rail It also provides rail funding and conducts research on strategies to improve rail infrastructure FRA inspectors on the ground employ discretion to decide which cases merit the lengthy and precise civil penalty process This allows them to ensure that the most serious violations are penalized SMART-TD members and allies made history in 2024 when they began pushing the FRA to ensure that two people are in the cabs of locomotives of freight trains The fight is not over Safety The Federal Railroad Administration has a variety of safety measures in place to safeguard the health and welfare of its employees and the general public It develops and enforces regulations for rail safety as well as manages funding for rail and studies strategies for improving rail infrastructure and technologies It also formulates and implements a strategy to ensure that current infrastructure, rail services and capacity, and strategically develops and enhances the national rail network The department demands that all rail operators adhere to strict guidelines that empower their employees and provide them with tools to be secure and productive This includes an anonymous close-call reporting system, setting up labor-management occupational safety and health committees with full participation from unions and anti-retaliation clauses and providing employees with the needed personal protective equipment Inspectors of the FRA are at the leading edge of enforcing rail safety regulations and laws They conduct routine inspections on equipment and investigate hundreds of complaints Anyone who is in violation of the safety rules for rail can be penalized civilly The agency's safety inspectors have a broad discretion on whether an incident falls within the statutory description of a civil penalty-worthy act In addition the Office of Chief Counsel's safety division reviews all reports received from regional offices to determine their legality before determining penalties This discretion is exercised both at the field and regional levels to ensure that civil penalties are only used when they are necessary A rail employee must be aware of rules and regulations that govern his actions and knowingly disregard those standards to commit a civil penalty-worthy offense The agency does not believe an individual who acted on a supervisor's directive has committed a willful offence The agency defines "general railroad system" as the entire system that carries goods and passengers between metropolitan areas and cities The trackage of a plant railroad in a steel mill is not considered part of the general transportation system that trains, even being physically connected to it Regulation The Federal Railroad Administration is responsible for establishing train regulations including those related to safety and the movement of dangerous substances The agency oversees rail finance, including grants and loan to improve service and infrastructure The agency collaborates with other DOT agencies and industry to devise strategies to improve the nation's rail system This includes ensuring the current rail infrastructure and services, addressing the needs for additional capacity, expanding the network strategically, and coordinating regional and national system planning and development The agency is primarily responsible for freight transportation but also supervises passenger transportation The agency is working to provide more options for passengers and connect people with the places they would like to go The agency is focused on improving the experience for passengers, increasing the safety of the existing fleet, and making sure that the rail network is operating efficiently Railroads are required to comply with a range of federal regulations, including those relating to the size and composition of train crews In recent years the issue has become a source of controversy Some states have passed legislation mandating two-person crews in trains This final rule codifies federally the minimum size crew requirements, making sure that all railroads adhere to the same safety standards This rule also requires each railroad that operates a one-person train crew to notify FRA of the operation and submit an assessment of risk This will enable FRA to evaluate the characteristics of each operation to the standard two-person crew operation This rule also changes the criteria for reviewing a special approval request to determine if an operation is "consistent" with railroad safety to determining if the operation is as safe or less risky than a two-person crew operation During the time of public comment for this rule, a large number of people expressed their support for a requirement of a two person crew In a letter to the editor 29 people expressed their concern that a single crew member will not be able to respond in a timely manner to incidents or train malfunctions at grade crossings or assist emergency personnel on the highway-rail level crossing Commenters pointed out that human factors are the reason for more than half all railroad accidents They believe that a bigger crew will ensure the safety of the train as well as its cargo Technology Freight and passenger railroads employ numerous technologies to enhance efficiency, increase security, improve safety and more Rail industry jargon includes various unique terms and acronyms Some of the most well-known include machine vision systems also called drones instruments for rail-inspection systems, driverless train, rolling data centers, and unmanned aerial vehicles also called drones Technology isn't merely replacing jobs -- it's empowering individuals to perform their work better and safer Passenger railroads use smartphones apps and contactless fare cards to boost ridership and increase the efficiency of their system Other developments, like autonomous rail vehicles, are inching closer to becoming reality The Federal Railroad Administration, as part of its ongoing efforts to improve safe, reliable, and affordable transportation in America is focusing on modernizing the railway infrastructure This multi-billion-dollar effort will see tunnels, bridges tracks, power systems, and tracks upgraded and stations being rebuilt or replaced The FRA's rail improvement program will be greatly extended by the recently passed bipartisan Infrastructure Law The Office of Research, Development and Technology of the agency is a crucial component in this effort The National Academies' recent review of the office concluded that it excelled at keeping in touch with inputs from a broad range of stakeholders But it still needs to be more focused on how its research helps the department achieve its primary strategic goal of ensuring safe movement of people and goods via railway One area where the agency could be able to improve its effectiveness is in identifying and assisting the advancement of automated train systems and technologies The Association of American Railroads, the primary freight rail association that focuses on research, policy, and standard setting, has established a Technical Advisory Group on Autonomous Train Operations to help in developing industry standards for implementing the technology FRA is likely to be interested in the creation of an automated rail taxonomy, which is a system of standards to clearly and consistently define different levels of automation that could be applicable to both on-road and rail transit vehicles The agency will also be looking to know the level of risk to safety that the industry sees with implementing fully automated operation and whether the industry is contemplating additional protections to minimize the risk Innovation Railroads are adopting technology to increase worker safety, make business processes more efficient and ensure that the freight that they transport arrives at its destination intact These innovations vary from cameras and sensors that monitor freight, to new railcar designs which keep hazardous cargo safe during transit Certain of these technologies allow railroads to send emergency response personnel to areas of accidents so that they can swiftly reduce damage and reduce the risk to property and lives One of the most renowned innovations in rail is Positive Train Control PTC which will prevent collisions between trains and trains, situations in which trains are on tracks that shouldn't be and other accidents resulting from human error This system is a three-part system comprised of locomotives onboard that track the train and wayside networks that connect with the locomotive, and a massive backend server that gathers and analyzes data Railroads that transport passengers also use technology to increase safety and security Amtrak, for example, is experimenting with the use of drones in order to help security personnel on trains locate passengers and items in an emergency The company is also looking into different ways to use drones, such as using them to perform inspections of bridges and other infrastructure such as replacing the lighting on railway towers that could be hazardous for workers to climb Other technologies that can be utilized for railways for passengers include smart track technology, which can detect the presence of objects or people on the tracks and send a warning to drivers if it's unsafe for them to proceed https//vimeocom/708192186 are particularly useful in detecting crossings that are not authorized or other issues during the evenings when traffic is less and there are fewer witnesses to an accident Telematics is yet another significant technological breakthrough in the rail industry It allows shippers, railways and other stakeholders to monitor a traincar in real-time These capabilities give railcar owners and crews better accountability and visibility and can aid in improving efficiency, prevent unnecessary maintenance and avoid delays in delivering freight to customers