Railroad tracks outside

All Aboard: Railroad Industry Insights from RREC 2019

November 20th, 2019

Antea Group was thrilled to attend and support the recent 2019 Railroad Environmental Conference (RREC) in Champaign-Urbana. This event stands apart both in the breadth of its sessions and the opportunity to meet new faces in the industry and connect with old friends.

With sessions covering environmental planning, drone-supported LiDAR, tie and water well management, community sustainability engagement, unique legacy liability issues like managing methane during drilling activities, and much more, the conference provided a holistic view of the state of the railroad industry and, more importantly, where it is headed.

Here are a few of the biggest trends and insights our team took away from this year’s conference:

  1. PFOS/PFAS is still big news.

One of the prevailing technical trends was PFOS/PFAS and its use within the railroad industry, often in conjunction with fire prevention or derailments. The sticking point continues to be the lack of promulgated federal standards, not just for the thousands of specific analytes but also for laboratory methodologies, and many organizations are waiting for clearer information before determining concrete next steps.

  1. Industry demographics are changing.

This year, RREC hosted a women’s networking and outreach breakfast that was both well attended and highly engaged. It was a great opportunity to meet with fellow railroad women and share the triumphs and challenges of working in what has traditionally been a male-dominated industry. We’re also seeing the start of a shift towards younger (and by definition less experienced) railroad workers, as the “old guard” moves closer to retirement. While their lack of expertise will certainly be felt, these newcomers will grow into their roles in time, while also bringing new ideas and fresh perspectives to the table. This mix of industry experience and fresh innovation can only be good for the railroad, helping to diversify this established industry and bringing it into the future.

  1. Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) continues to create a ripple effect.

Another important subject that we encountered repeatedly was the impact of precision scheduled railroading (PSR) and what it means for the industry long-term. This seismic shift has had wide-ranging impacts on everything from budgets to customer service to staffing to company culture, and it’s fair to say that railroads are still working out the optimal approaches for their businesses. In the EHS&S realm in particular, we’ve seen companies seeking the most cost-effective ways of maintaining safety and compliance. Although railroads have always had programs, we have seen a shift into even more programmatic work in order to drive efficiencies—for example, conducting facility reviews on a rotating schedule.

An Evolving Industry

As usual, RREC had its finger on the pulse of this rapidly changing industry, broadening attendees’ horizons and bringing together all the players in the small (but diversifying) world of railroad. Antea Group is proud to support this unique conference, and we’re already looking forward to next year. We hope to see you there!

Need some extra support? Contact us today to talk about how our railroad industry experts can be of service.

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