Safety is an absolute priority for the freight rail industry. Whether it be preventative maintenance, safety improvement projects, accident response, or community preparedness railroads are always striving to make the system safer. Texas' railroads work with their employees, suppliers and customers, and federal, state and local officials to safeguard the rail network.

Railroads’ holistic approach to rail safety focuses on four key areas: infrastructure and equipment investment; training and operational improvement; technology deployment; and community outreach and preparedness. The high standard railroads apply to every aspect of operations underpins this approach. A forward-thinking state and federal regulatory framework that encourages the development and widespread deployment of new technologies is critical for railroads to reach their ultimate goal of an accident-free future. 

stop track tragedies

Rail Safety Week 2023 Is Here!

Trespassing is the largest safety issue for freight railroads and Texas leads the county in road-rail collisions. To help mitigate these preventable deaths and injuries, railroads support and participate in OLI’s annual Rail Safety Week, which encourages safe driver and pedestrian behavior near tracks and grade crossings. 

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, 94% of all rail-related fatalities and injuries occur at railroad crossings or due to trespassing. Trespassing along railroad rights-of-way is the leading cause of rail-related deaths in America, and more than 400 trespass fatalities occur nationally each year. Railroad crossing incidents are the second leading cause of rail-related deaths in America.

Almost all of these deaths and injuries are preventable. 

While the number of crossing collisions, deaths and injuries has dropped over the past five decades thanks in part to aggressive work from the rail industry, trespassing is still the largest safety issue for freight railroads. Rail Safety Week (RSW) is one of the many ways freight railroads work with government and public partners to educate the public on how to make safe choices near railroad tracks.

From signing a quick online pledge to sharing social posts and videos, visit to see how you can participate in RSW and help #StopTrackTragedies. Here are the daily themes for this year:

  • Monday, 9/18: #STOPTrackTragedies
  • Tuesday, 9/19: Operation Clear Track; Law Enforcement, First Responder Partnerships
  • Wednesday, 9/20: Crossing Safety
  • Thursday, 9/21: Transit Safety Thursday & Professional Driver Safety
  • Friday, 9/22: Volunteer to Wear Red for Rail Safety
  • Saturday, 9/23: Trespass Prevention
  • Sunday, 9/24: No Photo/Video/Selfie is Worth the Risk



Texas' freight railroads operate a vast, over 10,500-mile outdoor network of track, bridges, tunnels, rail cars, locomotives and other infrastructure and equipment 24/7.

Adhering to the mantra “a well-run railroad is a safe railroad,” the industry’s ongoing commitment to robust investment, technological modernization and improved operating models drive safety gains while enhancing efficiency across the network. Data show a direct correlation between increased investment in the rail network and enhanced safety performance. Since 1980, the freight rail industry has invested over $700 billion nationwide into its infrastructure. As a result train accidents have decreased 80% since 1980 and 41% since 2000, while grade crossing accidents have similarly fallen 80% since 1980.

Continuing these investments is a priority for the railroad industry. Texas is a recipient of billions of dollars as part of this national investment with the industry spending over $1 billion in capital expenditures in 2020 alone. Rail operators are actively seeking community partners to pursue infrastructure and safety projects such as road-rail grade separation and repair grants made available through the 2021 passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. 




Safety advances are rooted in strict operating protocols governing train speeds, locomotive operation and inspection procedures to name a few. State-of-the-art training centers with simulators and virtual reality allow employees to practice real-life skills in a safe and controlled environment, peer-to-peer safety programs develop a collaborative approach to safety, and various technologies help employees do their jobs more safely and efficiently. Thanks to the ongoing efforts of railroads and their employees, the rail employee injury rate in 2020 was an all-time low.

America’s railroads today have lower employee injury rates than most other major industries, including trucking, manufacturing, construction — even grocery stores. For railroaders, each workday day begins with daily pre-shift safety briefing. Peer-to-peer safety programs, regular training and recognition initiatives reinforce the industry’s safety-first mentality.



The significant investments in railroad infrastructure also funds the development and deployment of new inspection technologies. These technologies range from track-side detectors to ultrasound, machine imaging, big data and drones, all designed to monitor infrastructure and equipment health. Railroads use these tools to increase both the frequency and accuracy of inspections — often above and beyond regulatory requirements — while the resulting data informs proactive maintenance plans. These advanced tools also empower rail employees to make better decisions, giving them an inside view of the rail network’s infrastructure, well beyond what the human eye can see.

To support continued innovation for both safety and operations, regulators need to recognize the reality and value of technological advancement in the rail sector. Overly prescriptive regulations should be replaced with a performance-based approach that holds railroads accountable for safety performance while allowing them to use new technologies and innovation to meet benchmarks.

Freight railroads have spent billions of dollars deploying Positive Train Control (PTC), a system of technologies that can remotely stop a train before certain human-error accidents occur. Data engineers, technologists and on-the-ground employees help develop and implement technical solutions to safety and service challenges. Railroads use ultrasound to look inside steel rails and ground-penetrating radar to assess the condition of ballast. Data show that the blended use of Automated Track Inspections with visual track inspections increases rail safety. Wayside detectors along track use a host of technologies — such as infrared and lasers — to assess bearings, axles, wheels and springs as trains pass by at up to 60MPH. Specialized software analyzes the images and flags anomalies that require further analysis.



Dedicated to the communities through which they travel, freight railroads work directly with first responders and local officials on emergency response planning and training.

All of Texas' major railroads have emergency response teams that are on call 24/7 to provide local officials with access to information and other resources — from response equipment staged throughout the network to clothing for displaced families. Railroads’ environmental consultants and contractors work closely with state environmental agencies to remediate any damage following an incident.

Preparedness also extends to ensuring the integrity and resiliency of the rail network, which moves critical goods essential to the lives of all Americans. Natural disasters, physical and cybersecurity threats and even pandemics can disrupt railroad operations and hamper federal and state response and recovery efforts. To ensure continued operations, railroads rely on comprehensive response plans developed and informed by relevant experts and past experiences. Information sharing between railroads and with key government and security stakeholders, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, allows for early detection and mitigation of threats. Railroads also monitor the network against physical, cyber and natural disaster threats daily.

Several active programs demonstrate the industry's commitment to rapid and well-trained first response. More than 20,000 first responders receive hands-on training each year through individual railroad efforts and industry programs such as the Security and Emergency Response Training Center (SERTC) in Pueblo, Colorado. The freight rail industry has helped develop the free mobile AskRail™ app, which helps emergency responders effectively and safely respond to an incident by providing immediate information about railcars carrying hazmat. Railroads also participate with Operation Lifesaver, whose education initiatives play a critical role across the U.S. in reducing collisions, fatalities and injuries at highway-rail crossings and trespassing on or near railroad tracks.