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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

Track Research Overview

A railroad track on a sunny day.Track and infrastructure failure is the second leading cause of train derailments in the U.S. Incorrect interaction between moving vehicles and the track is a common cause of derailments. Strategic priorities for this program are:

  • Develop track inspection technologies that detect defects before they become failures in service
  • Develop computer modeling capabilities to improve understanding of vehicle-track interaction, wheel and rail profiles and contact conditions
  • Expand the use of autonomous recording methods to provide more frequent and cost-effective measurements of track condition
  • Develop new methods for monitoring difficult to detect safety issues such as longitudinal rail force, ballast lateral restraint and ballast condition