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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Stakeholder Perceptions of Longer Trains

Document Series
Technical Reports
Federal Railroad Administration
Report Number
Subject Human Factors
Safety, human factors, very long trains, VLT, train length, communications, in-train forces, blocked crossings, precision scheduled railroading, PSR

This report documents stakeholder perceptions emerging from focus groups about very long trains (VLTs) with participants from three labor unions, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and two freight railroads. All stakeholders expressed uncertainty about how to define a VLT and noted that the safety of longer trains is related to additional contextual factors beyond train length.

Views on specific safety concerns varied by stakeholder category. Railroad manager participants asserted that increasing train length does not pose new safety concerns. FRA participants shared some concerns, but their perspectives varied. Labor participants strongly asserted that VLT operations present new or increased safety concerns. 

The diverse set of factors identified as affecting safety do not fit easily into a framework for understanding the relationship between train length and safety. Further study is needed, and the Appendix include a list of questions to support future research.

Last updated: Tuesday, February 21, 2023