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Volpe Rail Research Highlighted in TR News

Thursday, September 26, 2013

When the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) was asked to lead the development of a special TR News publication on railroads and research, Volpe rail experts were asked to help highlight how FRA-sponsored research is improving safety on the rails. In the May-June TR News issue, nine Volpe experts contributed to five of the publication's articles. The articles and authors are outlined below:

Crash Energy Management

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has been investigating crashworthiness design strategies for the past two decades with the help of Volpe crash energy management experts. The research has focused on assessing the likelihood and extent of damage from accidents, and developing accident scenarios and design strategies to mitigate the consequences in those scenarios.

This article, co-authored by Volpe's David Tyrell, principal technical advisor for rail equipment crashworthiness, and FRA's program manager Jeff Gordon, provides an overview of the FRA research on crash energy management and the development of technologies and analysis methodologies and tools to improve occupied volume preservation, injury prevention, fuel containment, and impact resistance.

Read the article.

Gaining Track Support to Improve Track Safety, Efficiency, and the Competitiveness of the Rail Industry

Track structural assessment and inspection tools present opportunities to respond to prevalent aging infrastructure and workforce challenges. By providing timely and accurate safety inspections, by guiding maintenance, and by ensuring efficient use of resources, these technologies can advance the efficiency and safety goals of the industry.

Authored by Volpe's Ted Sussmann, civil engineer, and John Choros, mechanical engineer, (and other rail experts), this article highlights tools and methods used to improve track stability, which are critical to the competitiveness of the U.S. rail industry.

Read the article.

Evaluations of Demonstration Pilots Produce Change

FRA implemented an evaluation program, from 1998 to 2012, to test system-based safety culture interventions: what would work and why, what benefits could be expected, and how those innovations could be maintained. The evaluation program produced four approaches to system-based safety culture change:

  • Participative Safety Rules Revision
  • Root Cause Analysis Problem Solving
  • Clear Signal For Action
  • Confidential Close Calls Reporting System

This article, authored by Volpe's Joyce Ranney, senior program manager, Michael Zuschlag, engineering psychologist, and Jordan Multer, rail program manager, in collaboration with the FRA sponsors and Fulcrum Corporation, summarizes fourteen years of the FRA safety-culture improvement efforts.

Read the article.

Success Factors in the Reduction of Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Incidents

Safety at public highway-rail grade crossings has improved over the last 20 years. While improvements in grade crossing safety were evident, specific factors and initiatives contributing to the success had not always been clearly identified. FRA funded a two-phase study to determine the safety factors impacting the reduction of highway-rail grade crossing incidents in the years 1994 to 2007. The study identified possible factors in grade crossing incident reduction and assessed the contribution of each factor to highway-rail grade crossing safety.

Co-authored by Volpe's Suzanne Horton, industrial engineer, and Marco daSilva, mechanical engineer, this article highlights the value of several significant research initiatives the federal government and industry have undertaken to improve highway-rail grade crossing safety.

Read the article.

Mobile Locomotive Simulator for Human Factors Research

The Cab Technology Integration Laboratory (CTIL) is a full-sized locomotive simulator developed by the FTA that provides a platform for research into crew performance. The CTIL enables researchers to assess the safety impact of various technologies, procedures, concepts of operations, and operating scenarios. The lab is a national resource available to railroad, industry, academic, and government researchers.

Authored by Volpe's engineering psychologist Gina Melnik, the article describes the capabilities of the FRA cab technology integration laboratory (CTIL).

Read the article.

Rail cars at sunset in Pueblo, CO. (Volpe photo)