The Association of American Railroads (AAR), Washington, D.C., released today its first "State of the Industry Report" focusing on the key challenges, accomplishments and innovations within the freight railroad industry. This initial, five-chapter edition details the industry's investments in new technology and innovation that are enhancing safety across the nation's rail network.

The reports are designed to inform lawmakers, the business community and the public about the freight railroad industry's top priorities.   

"Our industry maintains its leadership position through innovations designed to improve the performance of our employees, our equipment and even the rail itself," says AAR president and CEO Edward Hamberger. "This new report outlines how the railroad industry provides innovative, on-the-ground technologies and community programs that safeguard our customers' cargo, the communities we serve and our employees."

This report focuses on items such as safety investment, the role of "big data" in diagnosing and solving problems, the continued commitment by the rail industry to implement Positive Train Control (PTC) technology and emerging technologies such as drones and community-based training and outreach.

For instance, technologists are developing a sophisticated ultrasonic detection system that allows a better view into steel rail to locate track defects before they can cause problems. The industry is also investigating the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) for inspection of track, bridge and other freight rail infrastructure, as well as monitoring air quality.

The ultimate takeaway is the increased emphasis on rail network investments—$25 billion annually over the last five years on average—collaboration with customers and government and the development of new technologies combined to improve safety.

The first part of this report can be accessed at