AAR: 2009 Safest Year Ever for Nation’s Freight Railroads

WASHINGTON — The Association of American Railroads announced that 2009 was the safest year in freight railroad history, with preliminary year-end data indicating the train accident rate, employee casualty rate and grade crossing incident rates were all at record low levels last year.

“This record of accomplishment shows the depth of the freight railroad industry’s commitment to the safety of our employees, the communities we serve and the country’s rail network infrastructure,” said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. “Our industry is only as safe as our employees make it. From their very first day on the job, they learn that safety is the most important aspect of their railroading job.”

Another factor leading to improved safety, Hamberger noted, was the industry’s continued near-record investments in maintaining and improving track, signaling systems, freight cars and locomotives. In spite of a poor economy, freight railroads last year invested more than $9 billion in capital improvement programs, the third highest investment in history. Since 1980, freight railroads have invested more than $460 billion — 40 cents of every revenue dollar — to maintain and improve the nation’s rail network.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s preliminary data shows that the total number of train accidents involving freight railroads declined by 26 percent last year, with the rate per million train-miles falling 12 percent from the previous record which was established in 2008. The number of employee casualties on freight railroads fell by 14 percent while the casualty rate declined 4 percent from 2008 when the previous record was established.