New railcar reflector rule to enhance safety

| 11/7/2003

The Federal Railroad Administration wants to require new reflective material be placed on the side of railcars to help prevent collisions with big rigs and other vehicles.

FRA research indicates that safety may be improved by placing reflective material on the train itself, since it can aid drivers in better judging a train's distance and relative state of motion.

"About one quarter of all highway-rail crossing collisions involve a motor vehicle striking a train.  We have learned that in many cases, motorists do not see trains moving or stopped, blocking highway-rail crossings," said Federal Railroad Administrator Allan Rutter. "In proposing this action, we have taken into account numerous considerations raised by the railroad industry and others, and believe real safety benefits can be achieved while minimizing the cost to railroads and the nation's private car owners."

During the 1980s and 1990s, the brightness, durability, and adhesive properties of reflective material significantly improved. In 1999, the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center published a report on freight car reflectorization. Results from this research indicated that new "micro prismatic retro-reflective materials" provided adequate luminance intensity levels that could last for up to 10 years, the FRA said.