Unique Partnership Leads to Safer Rails
July 16, 2012
Last week, officials from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), and Volpe, the National Transportation Systems Center traveled to Pueblo, Colorado, to visit Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI), the test track used by FRA.
TTCI is a private rail industry research and testing organization with a staff of 100 engineers. Through an agreement between FRA and the Association of American Railroads, TTCI was formed to operate and market the test track to a broad set of customers. This unique organizational partnership has been highly successful, and Volpe has played a key role in leveraging this partnership to make the U.S. safer.
Volpe improvements in rail car, track, and operations safety are often tested at TTCI. These innovations ultimately lead to new standards implemented by FRA's Railroad Safety Advisory Committee, which includes representations from major U.S. and Canadian railroads, as well as Volpe.
While Volpe and FRA have many success stories in this strong research relationship that spans over four decades, one of the most compelling is the application of Crash Energy Management (CEM). After performing research and modeling, Volpe's Structures and Dynamics division designed CEM equipment for train cars that distributes the force of a crash, reducing passenger fatalities and injuries. These new designs are put to the test in dramatic train crashes on the test track at TTCI (see video).
FRA, Volpe, and TTCI are involved in rail safety in different capacities, ranging from safety regulation to crashworthiness testing and assessment. This meeting was part of a greater effort for the organizations to learn more about each other so that they can continue to work together to make rail safer.