US Rail Safety Statistics Highlight Impact Of Automation.

18 April 24

Advancements in Positive Train Control (PTC) coupled with the automation of routine railroad processes are empowering railroad operators to be more pro-active about rail safety. 
The adoption of data-driven rail technology solutions is having a two-fold impact. On one hand, railroad companies now have access to more sophisticated tools to drill down into the detail of how and why an incident occurred to ensure it doesn’t happen again.  

On the other, automation and digitalization are reducing the risk of human error across almost every aspect of day-to-day operations, ensuring trains are kept moving safely while protecting passengers and rail workers. 
While there has been significant progress in rail safety over the past two decades, Associated Press recently reported that there were 53 major derailments causing damage costing over $1 million in 2023, an increase of almost 33% compared to 2022.  

Although the overall number of derailments declined by about 2.6% – and rail companies pointed out that about two-thirds of these crashes happened at slow speed in railyards and didn’t cause significant damage – freight railroad operators are under huge pressure to demonstrate safety credentials while simultaneously maximizing efficienciesi.  
Unsurprisingly, a growing number of North American railroads are investing in technology solutions to reduce and mitigate risks while future-proofing their operations. 
Below we outline some of the latest developments in software-based rail automation which are improving rail safety and productivity. 

Automation & Advanced Positive Train Control (PTC) 

The latest generation of PTC software harnesses the power of sophisticated automation technology to prevent collisions and derailments, as well as halting unauthorized incursions by trains into work zones during maintenance and stopping trains from moving through a track switch that’s been left in the wrong position.   
Software developers have refined PTC technology to make it more intuitive, more user-friendly, and easier to integrate with existing software. 

For example, at Tracsis, we have developed a data-driven software platform that supports dispatching PTC-enabled railroads via either Interoperable Train Control (ITC) or Enhanced Automatic Train Control (E-ATC).  
The ITC Back Office System is compatible with any kind of Computer-Aided Dispatch or railroad management information system. It can receive mandatory directives, bulletins, subdivision lists, and can also interface with a Track Data System to receive information about fixed rail assets such as switches, signals, tracks, and crossingsii
The Enhanced Automatic Train Control (E-ATC) utilizes automation technology to provide highly advanced PTC functionality. The E-ATC system automatically integrates with dispatch workflow, eliminating manual steps and reducing the risk of error.  

The system can also be integrated with Centralized Traffic Control (CTC), Cab Signal Systems (CSS), and other signal or train control systemsiii
Find out more about the latest developments in Positive Train Control. 

Rail Safety & Digital Track Warrant (DTW) 

Digital Track Warrant (DTW) is a mobile application developed by Tracsis to enhance safety for rail maintenance and construction workers.  

Instead of relying on spoken exchanges, which can be easily misinterpreted, workers use a secure authenticated app to select and view their track authority limits.  
The app ensures that dispatchers and maintenance workers are relying on a single source of truth, substantially reducing the risk of misunderstandings that could lead to accidents. 

Tracsis is currently developing another version of the DTW app to enable train crews and other rail staff working near shops and yards to manage their track authorities with the latest rail technology.  

We are also working on geofencing to enhance the user experience and correlate data based on the actual location of each user.  

Watch this short video about how DTW works. 

The number of use cases for automation technology in the rail sector will continue to expand exponentially as the technology develops.   

When it comes to rail safety, automation software is one of the most useful tools we have to prevent accidents before they happen.  

Tracsis is the leading provider of software-based rail technology solutions, trusted by railroads in North America including Class I, passenger and short line operators. Contact us to find out more about rail automation software.