Prototype System for Managing Enterprise Rail Transport Risk for Hazmat

Hazardous material (hazmat) transportation by rail is a vital part of sustaining the modern lifestyle and economy. Hazmat shipments account for only a small portion of the overall freight traffic but any accidental or non-accidental release, although considered a rare occurrence, can have potentially significant impacts to the railroads, the public, and the environment. While railroads continually invest in improving the safety of overall rail transport, including hazmat transportation, there is a continued need to identify, evaluate, and improve options for further addressing the unique nature of the risks encountered in rail hazmat transportation. Existing risk assessment frameworks are currently suitable for evaluating safety risks for individual commodities and for specific shipment routes. However, in their current state of development, they do not easily lend themselves to a systemic understanding of risk that railroads need for making risk-based decisions and improving overall network safety. This IDEA project resulted in a novel, web-based prototype system for freight rail carriers: Prototype System for Managing and Analyzing Enterprise Rail Transport Risks of Hazmat (SMARTER HazmatTM). This prototype provides a new capability for railroads to evaluate, quantify, and visualize the overall, aggregated safety risks from comprehensive hazardous material traffic flows. The unique concept that forms the basis of this prototype is the application of a quantitative framework for risk aggregation and accumulation resulting from multiple hazmat movements across a rail carrier’s network, rather than evaluating risks on a route-by-route basis. The developed prototype aims to provide a systemic understanding of risks which railroads need for supporting risk-based investments and resource allocation decisions to improve overall railroad safety. The prototype system was designed to support railroads with new risk data visualization and decision-making capabilities, including: (i) determination and prioritization of high-risk network areas by considering comprehensive hazmat movements across operational networks, (ii) evaluation of the impacts of introducing additional shipments from new hazmat customers; (iii) monitoring network safety risk for significant changes in trends; and (iv) comparison of the effectiveness of risk mitigation strategies and support with identification of the network locations at which those strategies potentially achieve the greatest benefit for finite safety investments. Through collaboration with our railroad partner Norfolk Southern (NS), we gained valuable insights into how the prototype can be enhanced and prepared for wider adoption. Beyond the scope of the current IDEA project, the overall vision is to enhance the developed product into a production-quality risk management tool that more directly integrates with existing railroad data management systems and workflows. This full-scale system will provide railroads with more customized views into critical hazmat safety risk information and support continued railroad safety improvement through application of the concepts of systems-based thinking.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Funding: $99942
  • Contract Numbers:

    Safety IDEA Project 34

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Safety Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA)

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001
  • Project Managers:

    Fitzpatrick, Velvet

  • Performing Organizations:

    FACTOR, Inc.

  • Principal Investigators:

    Palakodeti, Ravi

  • Start Date: 20170711
  • Expected Completion Date: 20190219
  • Actual Completion Date: 20190219
  • Source Data: RiP Project 41923

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01644138
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Safety IDEA Project 34
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: Aug 27 2017 1:01AM