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A recent academic study by researchers from Brigham Young University, Georgetown University, and Virginia Tech found that the risk of derailment increases with train length. The study, which analyzed FRA data from 2013-2022, found that a 200-car freight train is 24% more likely to derail than a 50-car train.

FRA Administrator Amit Bose discussed the safety and performance of long trains with BLET members during his presentation at the union’s Western Regional Meeting in Kansas City. The BLET has been advocating for action to address the dangers of excessive train length since the inception of Precision Scheduled Railroading. BLET National President Eddie Hall exposed the dangers of long trains in a 2023 interview with Washington Post.

Bose said that recent FRA studies found that air brake systems performed largely as expected when testing was performed in a controlled environment. However, the FRA identified some negative impacts on performance and recommended additional research to provide a better understanding of how long trains impact the durability of rolling stock mechanical components.

“As the length of freight trains increases, the need and demand for accurate, actionable data on long trains — some of which can stretch up to three miles — has never been greater,” Bose said. “FRA is leading the push for more transparency and data in this area.”

Photo courtesy of Cory Rusch, BLET Division 659