America’s freight rail industry is safe. The train accident rate is down 28% since 2000, and the last decade was the safest ever, with the hazmat accident and employee injury rates at an all-time low.

Data from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) confirms that thanks to railroad employee commitment to safety and ongoing industry investments in technology, maintenance, and equipment, U.S. railroads continue to maintain a strong safety record. 

Through a multifaceted strategy of continued investment, innovative partnerships, technology deployment and operational improvement, railroads continue to strive towards a zero-accident future. Railroads’ annual investments are central to this safety mission, but the ability to more broadly deploy technology targeting the underlying causes of accidents is critical to ushering in the next era of safety gains.

The  FRA data demonstrate areas where additional work is necessary to drive down risk and enhance safety, such as equipment-caused accidents, noted previously. Additionally, while human factor-caused incidents are down 15% compared to 2000, the rate of these types of accidents increased 13% compared to last year, which also drove the yard accident rate up year-over-year.

  • Mainline: Class I railroads’ mainline accident rate is down 49% since 2000. For all railroads, that rate has declined 44% since 2000.
  • Track & Equipment: Track-caused accidents are down 55% since 2000 and are at their lowest-ever rate across the entire industry. Equipment-caused accidents are down 21% since 2000 but increased by 15% compared to 2021.
  • Derailment: For all railroads, the derailment rate is down 31% since 2000. Despite that longer-term positive trend, it was up by 5% year-over-year.
  • Employees: Per Class I railroad employee, the injury rate has dropped 63% since 2000 and is at an all-time low.
  • Hazmat: Per carload, the hazmat accident rate is down 78% since 2000 and the lowest ever per preliminary BOE data.
  • Grade Crossing: Grade crossing collisions were down 23% last year compared to 2000, but along with trespass incidents, these preventable accidents remain persistent challenges across the rail industry. Over 95% of rail-related fatalities are trespassers or grade crossing users. The combined total of trespasser and suicide fatalities for 2022 increased by 4% from 2021.