Operating Safely

Operating Safely

Safety is Union Pacific's number one priority because nothing is more important than protecting our employees and communities. Safety is also a critical component of our customer commitment.

We invest significant resources in training employees, developing innovative technologies and increasing rail safety awareness. Our ultimate goal is to operate an incident free environment, which we advance toward every day.

Rail Safety Maintenance

Rigorously maintaining quality rail infrastructure is foundational to our ability to operate safely. It helps prevent derailments, provides a safe path for train crews and avoids shipment delays for customers.

Union Pacific inspects railroad tracks, locomotives and other equipment on a continuous basis. Our track inspection program customizes schedules and techniques to examine each rail line. We inspected five million track miles across our 32,000-mile network in 2016, supporting the goal of meeting or exceeding federal requirements.

Efforts to strengthen our rail infrastructure contributed to a 17 percent improvement in FRA reportable derailments from 2015 to 2016. Track safety is a major focus for Union Pacific and we continue working toward our goal of eliminating accidents on our network.

  •  Building America Report 2016 - Safety Inspection Fleet

    Safety Inspection Fleet

    We use state-of-the-art equipment to inspect rail lines regularly.

    Lasers and cameras in Union Pacific's Geometry Cars capture images of track structures and test for defects, covering nearly 80,000 track miles per year. We are testing an unmanned geometry car equipped with an axle-mounted generator instead of a fuel tank. The cars report type, severity and location of track defects in near real-time. More information on Union Pacific's track inspection fleet..

    Photo: The rail test truck's 48 ultrasonic transducers identify air gaps in the track, indicating the rail part needing maintenance, with high-frequency sound.

  •  Building America Report 2016 - Drone Inspections

    Drone Inspections

    Union Pacific positioned 14 drones across the system in 2016. Drones allow us to assess our infrastructure and respond to incidents affecting our network. We continue exploring new applications for drone technology to increase safety across our railroad.

    Photo: Union Pacific used drones to assess weather-related damage in Doyle, California.

  • Building America Report 2016 - Machine Vision

    Machine Vision

    Our Machine Vision system equipped with lasers and cameras captures three-dimensional images of passing trains. It takes 50,000 photos every second, providing remote inspectors with detailed information regardless of time or weather conditions.

    Machine Vision eliminated hours of manual rail car inspections made after trains arrived at rail yards. Inspectors now identify trouble spots noted in reports accessible as soon as trains arrive, saving time and focusing their efforts on making repairs. Streamlining inspections reduces delays and the possibility of problems missed during manual visual inspections. Machine Vision is available in Union Pacific yards in Nebraska, Iowa and Arkansas.

    Photo: Remote rail car inspectors receive detailed images of rail cars as they travel through Machine Vision.

  • Building America Report 2016 - A Different Kind Of Puck

    A Different Kind Of Puck

    Embedded transponders known as pucks mark railroad crossings, switches and other track elements crucial to safely operate remote-controlled locomotive movements. Union Pacific's technology team developed a new, 3D-printed puck reader designed to improve usability. We are currently rolling out new readers across our network.

    Photo: Senior Systems Engineer Royce Connerley, left, holds the first puck reader prototype. Associate Project Engineer Evan Milton, right, holds the final prototype.

Positive Train Control

Union Pacific made significant progress implementing positive train control (PTC), an advanced system designed to automatically stop a train before certain accidents occur. Key milestones reached in 2016:

  • More than a quarter of track segments are PTC-ready. These 59 track segments, or subdivisions, are equipped with wayside devices (signals, switches and radios) and have defined GPS coordinates, which identify thousands of precise locations for systemwide PTC coordination. The PTC-ready segments cover a wide swath of UP's Western Region, from Southern California to Portland; from Portland to Pocatello, Idaho; and from Roseville, California, through Reno to Elko, Nevada.
  • Training efforts continue with more than 7,000 employees educated on PTC operations. Diverse training materials are tailored to a variety of employee roles, including engineer, conductor, dispatcher, maintenance of way/engineering, mechanical, signal, telecom and information technologies.

Automatically stops a train before certain accidents caused by human error occur, including train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive train speed, unauthorized train entry into work zones or movements through misaligned track switches.


Will not prevent vehicle-train accidents at railroad crossings, stop trains when pedestrians are on the tracks, or prevent incidents due to track or equipment malfunctions.

Progress through 12/31/16
Building America Report 2016 - Locomotives Equipped

More than 3,600 Union Pacific locomotives are fully PTC equipped with the exception of a single component: the PTC-compatible, crash-hardening memory (black box). We expect to make significant locomotive installation progress in 2017, once a supplier-related black box issue is addressed.

Building America Report 2016 - Track Segments Building America Report 2016 - Radio Towers Installed Building America Report 2016 - Training Completed
Building America Report 2016 - Route Miles in PTC Operation

Union Pacific is running PTC operations on nearly 2,500 route miles in California, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and Washington as part of revenue service demonstration, an ongoing and multifaceted test of the PTC system in a defined corridor. Upon FRA approving Union Pacific's safety plan, these miles will become officially PTC operable and our progress will increase significantly.

Building America Report 2016 - PTC Safety Plan Building America Report 2016 - Spectrum

Handling Hazardous Materials Safely

Union Pacific is obligated to transport hazardous materials by federal law and we take our responsibility seriously. Transporting these products requires special handling, rigorous inspections, strict operating procedures and other safeguards. We met the American Chemistry Council's stringent Responsible Care® Management System certification requirements for the 20th consecutive year, recognizing our commitment to move hazardous materials safely.

Union Pacific focuses on accident prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. Prevention efforts reduced reportable derailments across the network by 52 percent. Our Hazardous Management Group consists of highly-trained experts in hazardous material trans.portation safety who work with customers and inspect tank cars ensuring products are properly secured.

Building America Report 2016 - Hazardous Materials Manager Paul Holt

Union Pacific Hazardous Materials Manager Paul Holt discusses safe chemical handling procedures with emergency responders and community leaders in Hercules, California.

Accident Response

While 99.99 percent of rail hazardous materials shipments are transported without incident, Union Pacific is prepared to respond when accidents occur. We worked closely with emergency responders after 16 crude oil tank cars derailed near Mosier, Oregon, June 3, 2016. Our hazardous materials experts from across the country were immediately dispatched to address the incident and protect the environment. While there were no injuries, the accident greatly affected the community.

Union Pacific cooperated with local, state and federal officials as we worked to safely restore the area. Protective barriers were quickly positioned as a precautionary measure to contain and collect potential oil discharge into the Columbia River. A thin sheen surfaced at an outfall to the river the day after the accident, but dissipated before reaching the protective boom. The barrier remained in place as we restored the site to further ensure oil did not enter the river.

We took action and replaced lag bolts with a spike fastening system in the Columbia River Gorge after determining the accident was caused by broken lag bolts. While both systems are equally safe, rail spikes provide higher levels of defect detectability during track inspections.

As a result of what we learned, Union Pacific began a phased plan to increase inspections on rail lines and replace lag bolts with spike fastening systems across our network. While the replacement program is under way, Union Pacific track inspectors will conduct walking inspections on tracks with lag bolt fastening systems. These walking inspections will not be required once spike fastening systems are installed.

We have a clear focus – to operate our trains safely and protect our communities. The fastening system replacement plan reinforces our commitment to rail safety as we strive to improve upon our 99.99 percent chemical transportation safety record, and achieve our goal of zero incidents.

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Building America Report 2016 - Safety inspection fleet

Union Pacific uses different inspection methods including a safety inspection fleet that uses technology to identify imperfections. Finding and addressing these issues helps ensure trains operate on a safe, reliable railroad.

Emergency Response Training

Union Pacific provides fire departments and other emergency responders along our routes with comprehensive training on minimizing derailment-caused impacts. We provided classroom and hands-on training to approximately 2,500 local, state and federal first-response agencies in 2016.

We also sponsored 70 emergency responders from 11 states to attend a rail-specific HAZMAT training center in Pueblo, Colorado. The five-day tank car safety training course focused on tank car assessments, repairs and controlling hazardous material spills safely. Training also included a large-scale simulation of a hazardous material incident providing emergency responders with hands-on experience responding to accidents.

Safety Through Security

The Union Pacific Police Department is a team of highly trained special agents dedicated to maintaining the security and integrity of our railroad. The department holds certification from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, which is considered the gold standard in public safety accreditation and recognizes agencies that meet the highest standards of law enforcement.

The police department uses security monitoring technology to protect critical infrastructure from intruders around the clock. It coordinates its operation with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Security Administration and local law enforcement. Union Pacific was the first U.S. railroad named a partner in the CBP's Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism.

Building America Report 2016 - Haz Mat training

Union Pacific trained more than 45,000 emergency responders among communities we serve in the past 30 years.

Best Employee Safety Performance in History

Union Pacific became the safest U.S. railroad and achieved the best annual employee safety performance in our 154-year history in 2016. This marked our second consecutive year as the top-performing railroad in employee safety. The employee reportable injury rate, measured by the number of injuries for every 200,000 employee hours worked, improved by 14 percent from 0.87 in 2015 to 0.75 in 2016. We are grateful to our employees for their unwavering safety focus, contributing to a year without an employee fatality. This marks a major advance toward our ultimate goal of zero accidents and zero injuries. However, we recognize the journey is ongoing. Union Pacific continues improving technology, enhancing processes and fostering a culture focused on operating safely.

Courage To Care And Safety Stand Downs

Our employees are our eyes and ears when it comes to embedding safe behaviors. They identify risks, initiate action to mitigate those risks and work to keep each other safe.

Courage to Care, a voluntary commitment made by Union Pacific employees since 2012, empowers employees to look out for their peers and "stop the line" on any operation that could result in an incident. The company also occasionally pauses system-wide operations for safety stand downs, giving employees an opportunity to have candid safety discussions and share experiences to learn from each other. Jan Yates is among many Houston volunteers participating in employee-driven safety initiatives.

Building America Report 2016 - Jan Yates, Houston volunteer

Jan Yates is among many Houston volunteers participating in employee-driven safety initiatives.

Safety Spotlight

Jessie Delgado, a Supply Chain material clerk in West Colton, California, received Union Pacific's highest safety honor, the J.C. Kenefick Safety Award.

As safety captain, Delgado created monthly safety raffles for her work location. Employees entered the contest after identifying risks and solutions eliminating risks. The raffles produced visible results, such as securely wrapped items on tall shelves and properly stacked pallets. It also increased employee engagement, with employees offering assistance to each other.

Putting UP's safety training into action, Delgado helped save the life of a fellow employee having a heart attack. She also improved traffic flow at a nearby, busy intersection, adding signage to reduce risk.

Building America Report 2016 - J.C. Kenefick Safety Award - Jessie Delgado

Since its inception in 1986, the J.C. Kenefick Safety Award annually has recognized a union employee who demonstrated outstanding job safety achievements. Jessie Delgado was recognized for her safety-driven leadership.

Enhancing Simulator Training

Union Pacific uses nearly 30 full-size locomotive simulators to replicate the experience of operating a locomotive along our tracks. Engineers spent nearly 18,000 hours training on these simulators in 2016, up from 17,000 hours in 2015. We expanded real-time remote training, increasing simulator training accessibility.

We also use more than 200 remote controlled locomotive (RCL) simulators to provide hands-on training for licensed remote operators. In their daily work, operators use a small computer console to direct locomotives in rail yards. Remote control operators spent nearly 4,000 hours training on RCL simulators in 2016, down from 7,000 hours in 2015. Workforce reductions, as Union Pacific aligned resources to meet market conditions, contributed to decreased training hours.

Building America Report 2016 - Training Instructor - Alexis Howle

Alexis Howle, technical training instructor, applies her past experience as a brakeman, conductor and locomotive engineer in the classroom teaching new hires in Salt Lake City.

Monitoring Performance And Embedding Safer Behaviors

Union Pacific is rolling out video technology across our locomotives and vehicles to monitor drivers' and engineers' performance, and ensure safety, security and situational awareness. On the vast majority of occasions, this proactive performance sampling validates and confirms the professionalism of our employees. It also increases our in-depth understanding of our people's response to different situations, enabling us to improve coaching and embed safer behaviors.

We installed new in-cab cameras inside 1,500 locomotives, increasing the total number of such cameras to over 3,400. The in-cab cameras complement external-facing track image recorders (TIRs) providing a complete view of incidents. We also integrate event recorder data on train speed, throttle and brake settings, traction power levels and horn use.

By the end of 2016, we had installed 961 DriveCams across our vehicle fleet. DriveCams are positioned below rearview mirrors, and record 12-second video clips triggered by driving events such as hard braking, swerving and excessive speed. DriveCam captures images from eight seconds before an incident occurs and four seconds afterwards, enabling trained, third-party personnel to analyze the causes of such incidents. We plan to roll out DriveCam to new and retrofitted vehicles during 2017.

Public Safety

Keeping our communities safe involves proactive outreach to raise awareness and prevent risk-taking behavior near our tracks. We made significant progress in both areas through Union Pacific's Crossing Accident Reduction Education and Safety (UP CARES) program in 2016.

Raising Awareness Across Communities And Media Platforms

Union Pacific's 2016 railroad safety campaign addressed sobering consequences of risky behavior near railroad tracks, reaching more than 32 million people through social media. We also reached out to schools, cities and professional driving companies. These community organizations recognized train safety is a community concern and were a big part of the rail safety campaign's success.

Your Life is Worth the Wait Videos Selfies off the Tracks

What’s your life worth? That was the question Union Pacific asked in Your Life is Worth the Wait videos featuring drivers tempted to beat trains at railroad crossings, which are described below.

A hurried woman weaves her car through traffic to avoid being late to a high-stakes job interview considers racing an approaching train across a railroad crossing. She slams on the brakes and recognizes stopping the car prevented a catastrophic accident. The woman glances at her daughter’s picture and recognizes her life was worth the wait.

Building America Report 2016 - Your Life Is Worth the Wait

A teen races his truck to get his panicked date home before curfew. The young woman tells him to hurry as a train moves toward a railroad crossing they need to pass. The truck stops seconds before the train passes and both teens realize waiting for the train saved their lives. The young woman calls her father to let him know she will be late.

Building America Report 2016 - Your Life Is Worth the Wait
Selfies off the Tracks

Two animated videos addressed pedestrian safety and the dangers of taking selfies near railroad tracks. The videos featured a soccer fan taking a selfie on the field during game action and people taking selfies in front of landmarks. While there are all kinds of unique places to take selfies, Union Pacific reminded everyone that railroad tracks are not among them.

Building America Report 2016 - Selfies off the Tracks
Earbuds Aren’t your Buds

A Pandora commercial asked Chicago-area passenger train commuters to turn down the volume on earbuds anytime they are near railroad tracks.

Building America Report 2016 - Turn Down for Us

Proactively Engaging Communities Through Up Cares

Our UP CARES program recognizes that the most compelling arguments for staying safe around railroad tracks are often those delivered face-to-face. During 2016, our employee volunteers delivered more than 14,500 rail safety presentations to more than 498,000 pedestrians, motorists and professional truck drivers across our 23-state network.

UP CARES also addresses risky driver behavior around railroad tracks. Union Pacific special agents partner with local and state police departments to observe driver behavior at railroad crossings. Officers stop drivers who risk their own safety and the lives of others. We carried out nearly 300 UP CARES operations of this kind during 2016, stopping and educating more than 10,000 drivers.

Combating railroad photo trend with an award-winning campaign

Union Pacific's deliberately startling high school photo safety campaign was awarded Bronze at the 2016 Telly Awards, which recognize outstanding online and cable TV commercials. We launched the campaign in 2015 to address a worrying trend of high school seniors organizing photo shoots on train tracks. It compares snapping photos on tracks to posing for senior pictures in the middle of a busy road, bringing to life the extreme dangers involved.

Building America Report 2016 - Senior photos

Safety Spotlight

The sudden popularity of the Pokémon Go! smartphone game brought an unwelcome side effect: fans playing on railroad property. We responded by developing a meme to emphasize rail safety, which reached nearly 500,000 people on Facebook and Twitter.

Building America Report 2016 - Pokemon No!

Analyzing Patterns To Keep Crossings Safe

Roughly 4 percent of railroad crossings are responsible for 25 percent of crossing-related accidents. By analyzing the characteristics of these crossings, Union Pacific is able to make tailored improvements to help motorists and enhance safety. First launched in 2015, our Crossing Assessment Process is already delivering significant gains through leveraging this insight. At a railroad crossing in Fairfield, Arkansas, which had 24 reported incidents of motorists turning onto tracks in five years, we worked with local officials to add warning signs to caution drivers from turning too early – and landing on railroad tracks.

Crossing Accidents

Per Million Train Miles
Building America Report 2016 - Crossing Accidents chart

Responding To Incident Reports

Union Pacific's Response Management Communications Center (RMCC) processes emergency and non-emergency calls from communities across our 23-state system. The RMCC team operates around the clock, responding to emergencies, reports of vehicles stuck on railroad tracks, criminal activity and other concerns. Drivers and pedestrians can contact the RMCC through the phone number posted near railroad crossings, 888-UPRR-COP (877-7267).

In 2016, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) awarded our RMCC team its second distinguished accreditation, recognizing an advanced standard of compliance across policy and procedures, administration, operations and support services. RMCC received its first CALEA accreditation in 2013 and is one of 95 public safety communications centers recognized for emergency response and professional excellence in this way.