Reports to Congress

Issues and Dimensions of Freight Car Size

  • 01
  • Mar
  • 1980
SUBJECT: Evaluation
KEYWORDS: Safety, Maintenance-of-Way, Derailment
ABSTRACT: This study presents a review and evaluation of the relationships between the safety and efficiency of rail transportation and the size of railroad freight cars. The study concludes that most larger cars can be operated safely over well-maintained track, but that large-capacity cars tend to exert greater forces on the track structure than do smaller cars. Many railroads have not made appropriate adjustments in maintenance-of-way expenditures to compensate for this increased wear. In addition, cars of certain designs have proved unusually susceptible to derailment because of peculiar dynamic characteristics. These factors have contributed materially to the overall increase in derailments over the current decade. However, factors related to car size cannot be said to have been responsible for a significant number of additional train accident fatalities, especially when countervailing safety considerations are taken into account.