Safety effectiveness of integrated risk reduction strategies for rail transport of hazardous materials

Liu, X., M.R. Saat and C.P.L. Barkan. 2013. Safety effectiveness of integrated risk reduction strategies for rail transport of hazardous materials. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 2374: 102-110.


Railroad transportation plays a critical role in safely and economically moving hazardous materials throughout North America. Effective management of the risk of hazardous materials transportation is a high priority of both the American rail industry and government. A number of strategies and technologies have been implemented or are being developed to reduce this risk. Each risk reduction strategy has an effect on rail safety as well as a corresponding implementation cost. In addition, risk reduction strategies may have interactive effects. However, little prior research has addressed the interactive effects between different risk reduction strategies or how elements of them should be compared or combined, or both, to achieve the maximum risk reduction in the most cost-effective manner. A preliminary methodology was developed to estimate the reduction in the risk of the release of hazardous materials by implementing integrated risk reduction strategies, including accident prevention, tank car safety design enhancement, and changes in train operating practices such as train speed reduction. An analysis showed that risk reduction was affected in differing degrees by operating conditions, accident cause, effectiveness of accident prevention technologies, tank car safety design, percentage of tank car fleet requiring upgrade, and train speed. This study represents the first step in a systematic process of quantitative risk analysis of railroad freight transportation for local, regional, and system wide safety improvement and is intended to assist decision makers in the development of an integrated cost-efficient risk reduction framework.