Increasing safety and security through testing of rail operating rules

At the forefront of every duty and task that freight railroads engage in or carry out is safety. You want to guarantee that infrastructure, employees, and the environment are kept safe.

To support this, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) requires that railroad companies (from a Class I to a regional or short line railroad) adhere to safety rules. Many railroads also adhere to the General Code of Operating Rules (GCOR). These rules encompass a range of safety-related concerns, from employee responsibilities to signaling equipment, responding to accidents, and carrying hazardous materials, to safety rules for crew working in a railroad yard or track.

Each individual railroad is responsible for making sure that they’re remaining compliant with every rule, regardless of their operating capacity, budgets, or the number of employees, and they do so through operational testing. In today’s competitive and quickly modernizing transportation industry, railroads can benefit from digital operational testing to support their safety and compliance goals.

The current state of operational testing

At a basic level, many of the core railroad operations that consume the day-to-day of a railroader must undergo periodic inspection. Not only do tests have to be created, executed, and logged, but railroads are also required to conduct a 6-month review of tests, inspections, and adjustment to the operational tests and inspections program.

Not only that, but railroads then have to maintain records of all inspections and tests, as well as records of their periodic, operational testing program reviews.

If you don’t remain compliant, you run into safety and security risks, resulting in penalties, fines, and liabilities for mistakes. The best way to avoid this is by achieving a higher level of compliance with FRA regulations and General Code of Operating Rules (GCOR).

It’s easier said than done.

The sheer number of operational rules that railroads must adhere to is daunting. How are you going to make sure that you cross your t’s and dot your i’s and avoid running into noncompliance and, ultimately, penalties? Manual creation and logging of tests makes the process time-consuming and far from the level of efficiency that railroads strive for.

This is where a digital system steps into the picture.

Technology-driven safety and security

The benefits of modernization for the railroad industry aren’t just concepts being evangelized by tech companies. The Association of American Railroads has pointed to technology as a large factor in the rail industry’s safety record. Innovations like data analytics, cloud-based applications, the Internet of Things (IoT), and artificial intelligence are disrupting rail operations, offering opportunities to not only optimize processes, but also operate more safely.

Technology-driven inspections address the errors that arise from human mistakes and save humans time that can be channeled towards other processes. The goal is to leverage innovative solutions to make your life and day-to-day work easier, less of a hassle.

Key considerations for an operational testing system

As you look for a digital solution that can make testing and compliance easier in your railroad, keep these considerations in mind

  1. This solution should be digital one that’ll help you avoid human-made errors and avoid manual, time-consuming, and repetitive tasks (like test plan creation) that can instead be automated for you. Offering an easy-to-use dashboard ensures that you can see the results of tests performed against business KPIs, supporting reporting and increased visibility into the testing process.
  2. Pre-populated rules library: Get ready to leverage a ready-to-use knowledge base and rules library for GCOR. Enabling the mass import of rule masters to administer tests means that you’ll be able to factor in both federal and territory-specific rules directly into your test plans.
  3. Integration with business systems: imagine the bonus of real-time updating of employee information following a test, such as when an employee fails drug and alcohol testing. Avoid running into railroad safety concerns by having unqualified crew working, accomplished through integration with your qualification tracking system. A strong operational testing system should integrate with SAP, ERP, and HRMS to support a system that will support your entire business.
  4. Sends you notifications and alerts: It’s challenging to keep track of all the rules that you have to follow and make sure that all your testing is up to date. The bonus of a digital application is that you can receive notifications and alerts that tell you of approaching deadlines related to testing assignments or the execution of tests, keeping you in the know with real-time information.

Next steps with a partner

How can a partner in your digital journey help support your core operational goals? CloudMoyo developed the Operational Testing System (OTS) to best support operational testing in modern railroads, streamlining the testing process from creation to execution and reporting, empowering railroads to manage their operational testing program more efficiently.


Have you read our Industry Perspective “Effective operational field testing for railroads with a pre-defined rules library”?