President's Message

Rail safety: What Canada’s railways are keeping an eye on in 2018

In January, RAC published the 2017 edition of Rail Trends, our association’s annual report summarizing the performance of Canada’s railway industry. Among the highlights of this report is the fact that 2016 was the safest year on record for Canada’s railways. Among freight carriers, the accident rate – the number of accidents relative the rail sector’s workload – was the lowest on record, while passenger railways maintained a level of less than one accident per million travellers for the fifth consecutive year. In addition, the rate of accidents involving dangerous goods, and the number roadway-railway crossing accidents, were at all-time lows. Safety is a top priority for Canada’s railways, and the industry’s performance in this area speaks to this commitment.

In 2018, RAC will be heavily involved in several different rail safety-related files to ensure that Canada’s railway industry can build on this performance. Continuing from 2017, a priority will be to monitor the status of the Transportation Modernization Act, which would mandate the use of inward-facing locomotive voice and video recorders. Our association would be counted upon to work collaboratively with the government throughout the regulation-making process.

In addition, the industry is anticipating the release of the Railway Safety Act (RSA) Review report. Throughout the RSA Review, RAC and its members have provided input on realistic ways to strengthen rail safety. Specifically, the industry has highlighted roadway-railway crossing safety, the dangers of trespassing on railway property and the importance of proper approaches to railway-community proximity issues. In addition, the industry has outlined safety culture developments in the railway sector since the last RSA Review and the evolution of our association’s Safety Culture Initiative.

The previous reviews of the RSA concluded that Canada’s railway transportation system is safe. As the Minister of Transport reviews the report and its recommendations, the industry will continue to provide input on policies and regulations to enhance the safety of Canada’s railway network even further.

Finally, RAC will be closely monitoring Bills C-45 and C-46, the government’s legislation which will legalize marijuana and restrict impaired driving, respectively. Both pieces of legislation have the potential to impact the safety of rail operations.

Our association’s work in these areas will support efforts that our partner organizations and members are undertaking this year to improve safety. Operation Lifesaver, for example, is evolving its successful Look.Listen.Live virtual-reality campaign and launching a program to groom the next wave of rail safety ambassadors.

We always say that rail safety is a shared responsibility. We’re looking forward to working with governments, members and stakeholders in 2018 and beyond to build on the safety record that our industry achieved in 2016. Through a combination of regulation, public education and outreach, and sound public policy, we can achieve our goal of zero accidents.