FRA’s International Programs Division develops positive relationships with foreign passenger and freight rail entities—within government, industry, and academia—facilitating communication and technical exchanges. The graphic below illustrates differing strengths and the importance of global collaboration to increase rail safety, efficiency, and productivity.
Data source: Jane's World Railways, “2019 Executive Overview.”
FRA is an active member of the international rail advocacy body, the International Union of Railways (UIC), and participates regularly in its annual events and meetings. UIC facilitates technical cooperation among railroad entities across the globe while providing venues for exchanging information on best practices and subject matter expertise on a variety of rail topics.
In addition, FRA's rail test facility in Pueblo, Colorado, the Transportation Technology Center (TTC), provides the setting for not only the important work of FRA's Office of Research, Development, and Technology but also that of international vendors. All benefit from specialized laboratories, safety- and security-inspector training environments and equipment, and over 50 miles of track for testing freight and passenger rolling stock, vehicle and track components, and safety devices.
Learn more about FRA’s work with international partners in the features below.
The 14th annual International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD) event, a grade crossing safety awareness initiative spearheaded by the International Union of Railways (UIC), was hosted for the first time in the United States, June 8-10, 2022, in Denver, Colorado. Federal Railroad Administration, Association of American Railroads (AAR), and Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI), staff served on the 2022 ILCAD Executive Planning Committee. The event provided an opportunity for rail industry experts, researchers, and government officials to share information about best practices and projects that improve safety around grade crossings and reduce the incident toll. This year’s event also featured a Trespass and Suicide Prevention Special Session and a site visit and tour of FRA’s Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo.
For more information about FRA’s efforts to improve grade crossing safety, visit the Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety and Trespass Prevention webpage.
Thai Ministry of Transport U.S. Development Tour
On June 23, 2022, FRA staff met with the Ministry of Transport (MOT) of Thailand to learn about Thai rail industry modernization needs and to share information about state-of-the-art U.S. railway technologies, best practices, financing mechanisms, regulatory frameworks, policies, and the role of FRA in the U.S. rail industry. The Thai MOT visit to FRA was part of a broader U.S. tour including stops in New York, Indianapolis, and Chicago organized by the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) to introduce Thai rail decision makers to potential U.S. vendors of rail technology.
ILCAD 2019 — Amersfoort, Netherlands
FRA staff joined 180 grade crossing experts from 40 different countries for the 11th International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD) on June 6, 2019. ILCAD attracts railway industry representatives, road authorities, academics, and other infrastructure experts from around the world to spotlight the dangers associated with level crossings, or grade crossings.
ILCAD 2019 focused on technical as well as human processes: How can we adapt road and rail infrastructure to meet user needs? What low-cost measures could prevent dangerous behavior at grade crossings? In addition to level crossing safety solutions, attendees discussed awareness, engineering and innovation, human factors, risk management, enforcement, and investigation. FRA presented the latest U.S. grade crossing research and ways to engage industry, municipalities, and the public. ILCAD attendees also went on site visits to see how the Netherlands approaches level crossings.
Border Crossing Study
Congress charged USDOT and FRA with conducting an international border rail study (House of Representatives Appropriations Committee Report No. 114-129) on passenger and freight rail service between the United States and Mexico, in Texas, and other international land crossings. The study found that standards and protocols for freight rail service vary between countries. U.S. and Canadian railroad and safety regulations are similar, whereas Mexico’s rail regulations are still in development. FRA is collaborating with Mexico’s newly created Rail Transport Regulatory Agency to facilitate cooperation on rail safety matters and regulatory practices in Mexico. Passenger rail service does not yet exist between the United States and Mexico.
For more information, read the technical report, International Border Passenger and Freight Rail Study, in FRA’s eLibrary.
Containment Fire Testing
FRA recently completed follow-on containment fire testing on rail tank cars near Horstwalde, Germany. The testing, conducted at Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM), or Federal Institute of Material Research and Testing, involved one-third scale, ethanol-filled tank cars with pressure relief valves. Data on the safety performance of the tanks’ pressure relief valves under fire conditions will be published in 2020.
In 2015, FRA published a study involving total containment tanks (no pressure relief valves). In that study, tanks were filled with either water or a 50 percent sodium hydroxide (NaOH) solution. Extrapolating data, researchers estimated that the failure time for a full-scale tank car filled with the NaOH solution would be 62 to 88 minutes—falling short of the 100-minute requirement for these tank cars.
For more information on the 2015 testing, read the technical report, Rail Tank Car Total Containment Fire Testing, in FRA’s eLibrary.