Technical Reports

Issues and Dimensions of Freight Car Size: A Compendium

  • 01
  • Oct
  • 1980
AUTHOR: P. R. Nayak, D. W. Palmer
OFFICE: RPD
REPORT NUMBER: FRA/ORD-79/56
SUBJECT: Freight Operations, Evaluation
KEYWORDS: Vehicle Design, Derailment, Hopper Car, Tank Car, Economics, Safety, High-Capacity Car, High Axle Load
ABSTRACT: An investigation is made into the effects of the size, weight, and length of freight cars on the safety and efficiency of U.S. rail transportation. A review is made of the historical and present population and usage of the U.S. freight car fleet. Distinct trends toward the purchase of larger, heavier cars and the subsequent effect on the fleet are shown. Several data bases are used in a novel fashion to provide actual derailment rates for the fleet by car-miles and ton-miles as functions of various parameters, including car type, nominal weight capacity, and length. A key finding is that, historically, the use of 100-ton capacity freight cars, in itself, has not been detrimental to the safety of U.S. rail transportation. An overview of current analyses of the causes of derailments is given, with special considerations to tank car accidents and grade-crossing accidents. Based on these analyses, technical measures for improvement are outlined. In culmination, a series of options available to the government and industry is given, with consideration to technical, regulatory, and economic impacts.
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