2007: A Strong Year For Railroad Safety

WASHINGTON — Last year was another strong year for safety on the nation’s railroads, with records being set in two key safety measurements while a third fell just shy of setting a record.

“Over the years, the railroad industry has developed a strong safety culture,” said Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR) at the annual E.H. Harriman Awards luncheon which honors railroads with the best employee safety records for the previous year.

“Last year the train accident rate was the lowest in history,” he said. “So was the grade crossing accident rate. The total number of fatalities from all rail-related incidents was also the lowest in history. And the employee injury rate was the second lowest in history, missing the record set in 2006 by less than one percent.”

Hamberger noted that 2008 is off to a strong start with respect to safety. “The employee injury rate, the train accident rate and the grade crossing incident rate were all lower in the first two months of this year than they were a year ago.”

The E.H. Harriman Awards celebrates the achievements of railroads with the best employee safety records by awarding twelve gold, silver or bronze awards in four categories at an annual luncheon and awards ceremony.

Hamberger credited the industry’s more than 230,000 dedicated employees as being responsible for the industry’s extraordinary safety record.

“This is a safe industry because of the dedication of the individuals who work for it … people who operate trains … people who maintain and repair tracks and signals … people who dispatch trains … people who maintain our fleet of 21,000 locomotives and 1.5 million freight cars … and all of the people who work “behind the scenes”.

Norfolk Southern was awarded top, gold honors for the nineteenth year in a row in Group A which is comprised of line-haul railroads whose employees worked 15 million employee-hours or more during 2007. Other Group A recipients included CSX Transportation (silver) and Union Pacific Railroad (bronze).

In Group B (line-haul railroads whose employees worked 4 to 15 million employee-hours in 2007), for the second year in a row, the gold award went to Kansas City Southern Railway. Silver going to Metra, the Chicago commuter railroad, and bronze went to Canadian Pacific Railway (US operations).

Group C includes railroads whose employees worked less than 4 million employee-hours during the award period. Awards were given to Iowa Interstate Railroad (gold), Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway (silver) and Florida East Coast Railway (bronze).

Group S&T is for switching and terminal companies and the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis took the award for gold. The silver award went to Union Railroad of Pittsburgh, while the Birmingham Southern Railroad received the bronze.

Certificates of Commendation were awarded recognizing four railroads with continuous gains in employee safety improvements over a three year period and showing the most improvement between 2006 and 2007.

Certificates went to Amtrak for Group A, the Long Island Rail Road (Group B), Wisconsin & Southern Railroad (Group C) and finally, Union Railroad for Group S&T.

The Harriman Awards was founded by the late Mrs. Mary W. Harriman in memory of her husband, Edward H. Harriman, an American legend in railroading.

Today, the awards are administered under the auspices of the E.H. Harriman Memorial Awards Institute, with support from the Mary W. Harriman Foundation.

Railroads’ commitment to safety is an integral part of the culture of railroading in America. Today, employee injury rates have declined sharply – down more than 80 percent since 1980. In fact, today railroad employees have injury rates comparable with employees working in the retail or food service industry and lower than those in other modes of transportation.

Harriman winners are selected by a committee of representatives from the transportation field and are granted on the basis of the lowest casualty rates per 200,000 employee-hours worked with a formula that accounts for volume of work performed as well as the number of fatalities and occupational illnesses. All data is documented by the Federal Railroad Administration.