Freight rail is by far the safest mode of ground transportation. At BNSF Railway, we continue to invest in new technology and infrastructure improvements to make it even safer.
In partnership with our employees, technology plays a critical role in our safety program, especially when it comes to inspecting our tracks, bridges and other structures. And because a major part of operating safely is making sure accidents do not happen in the first place, we utilize the latest technology on our tracks, including rail detectors and track geometry cars.
Our automated track inspections help identify problem areas that cannot be detected by the human eye, and our rail detectors use ultrasonic rays to gather information on track surface, alignment, and wear. Key routes in our network are inspected up to four times per week, which is more than twice the inspection frequency required by the Federal Railroad Administration. And our busiest main lines can be inspected daily.
BNSF also has employed special detection technology along our network that looks at the performance of rail cars. Systems like Wheel Impact Load Detectors, Warm Bearing Detection, and Acoustic Bearing Detection allow us to carefully evaluate and react to the conditions of the rail cars on our system in real-time. This is a core part of our overall proactive strategy: to use technology to detect and prevent any potential issues.
To learn more about BNSF’s inspection and detection program, click here.
BNSF technicians using a high-rail vehicle to gather track condition data.
We also use the same approach to inspecting our bridges. BNSF has a staff of trained bridge inspectors, structural engineers, consultants and specialized contractors. As part of our ongoing investment in our infrastructure, we are spending $2.8 billion across our network to replace and maintain our structures, including our bridges.
To learn more about BNSF’s bridge safety program, click here.
Each of the approximately 13,000 bridges across our network receives a comprehensive inspection annually by a qualified bridge inspector.
BNSF has completed installation of all mandated Positive Train Control (PTC) infrastructure on our network. We are now operating trains with PTC protections on the mandated lines as we continue to test and refine this highly complex system. PTC is technology that overlays existing train hardware and software. As mandated by law, PTC is intended to prevent:
- Train-to-train collisions
- Derailments caused by excessive speed
- Unauthorized incursions by trains onto sections of track where maintenance activities are taking place
- Movement of a train through a track switch left in the wrong position
BNSF is investing $2 billion to complete installation of PTC infrastructure on all required subdivisions and has trained 21,000+ employees to operate and maintain PTC. To learn more about BNSF’s implementation of PTC, click here.