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Rail Scrambles to Meet Safety Tech Deadline

Three of the biggest freight railroads operating in the U.S. have told the government they won't meet a 2018 deadline to start using safety technology intended to prevent accidents.

Three of the biggest freight railroads operating in the U.S. have told the government they won't meet a 2018 deadline to start using safety technology intended to prevent accidents.

After a 2008 collision between a commuter train and a freight train in California killed 25 people, Congress passed a law requiring railroads to start using expensive technology on all tracks that carry passenger trains or that are used to haul liquids that emit toxic gas if spilled. The technology, called positive train control or PTC, relies on GPS, wireless radio and computers to monitor train positions and automatically slow or stop trains that are in danger of colliding, derailing due to excessive speed or about to enter track where crews are working or that is otherwise off limits.

But don’t worry, guys. Even though the powers that be warned railroads after the law passed that they would be VERY reluctant to grant waivers if companies missed the 2018 deadline, the industry's allies responded by quietly slipping a provision into a transportation bill in November that limits their ability to actually deny those waivers.

This expense is coming at a time when low fuel costs mean rail is actually losing some business to over the road trucking, which can finally, if temporarily, compete on price. But this hit FOR rail should result in fewer GETTING hit BY rail which, I have to say, I’m into.

I’m Anna Wells, and this is IEN Now.

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