Black railway tanker cars of the type used to transport petroleum products. Several cars visible on two separate sets of tracks. Identification markings have been removed, only technical information remains.
Trains Heading

How this trade association strives to keep Canada’s railways safe and sustainable.

Globe illustration with trains planes around the globe

One of the country’s leading trade associations, the Railway Association of Canada (RAC), represents nearly 60 passenger and freight railway companies that transport more than $320 billion worth of goods and 100 million passengers from coast to coast every year. The association — which was established in 1917 to ensure troops and supplies were moved efficiently during World War I — employs more than 36,000 people in positions from safety and security to technology and railway operations. These employees move half of the country’s exports and about 70 percent of all surface goods yearly. RAC is a highly proactive organization that not only works with communities and governments to ensure our rail sector is safe, sustainable and competitive on a global scale, it ensures the public understands the role rail plays in the Canadian economy. Since inception, RAC has made it a priority to support innovation and economic development and to help businesses stay competitive. They’ve had the goal of making Canada’s rail industry one of the safest in the world, as well as one of the most environmentally sustainable.

There are a plethora of initiatives RAC works hard to grow to confirm that residents, leaders of all levels of government and first responders know what’s happening on the country’s railways. For instance, the Safety Culture Initiative offers resources meant to improve the safety records of trains on Canada’s railways. The tragedy in Lac-Mégantic, Que., eight years ago was an eye-opener for the industry to re-evaluate safety culture. As a result, annual investments are made when it comes to maintaining and improving state-of-the-art safety technologies, training and infrastructure.

TRANSCAER provides free training to police, firefighters and emergency medical responders on how to handle incidents involving the transportation of dangerous goods via the TRANSCAER Safety Train — a “classroom on wheels.”

Another safety initiative is known as Operation Lifesaver, which works to prevent the deaths of about 2,100 North Americans who are killed or seriously injured each year due to train-auto collisions and trespassing on railways. Funded by Transport Canada and RAC — and supported by a variety of organizations, including law-enforcement agencies and government — it works to promote the understanding of railway signs and warnings and instills the need for safe driving around railways.

When it comes to the industry’s environmental concerns, the Locomotive Emissions Monitoring (LEM) program is dedicated to keeping Canada’s railways green. Right now, the rail industry produces just one percent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, even though the country’s railways move a staggering amount of freight, as well as passengers. The program came into effect under the initial memorandum of understanding in 1995 and was created to make sure railways were committed to meeting greenhouse gas reduction targets and to reduce the emissions of various air contaminants. The memorandum of understanding currently in effect with Transport Canada (covering 2018 to 2022) is continuing this important work and contaminants continue to be monitored.

These are all important programs, but perhaps one of the most vital endeavours is the 30-year-old Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response initiative, affectionately known as TRANSCAER, which works to educate and ensure residents, municipalities and emergency first responders stay informed about the various products that are moved through their cities, towns and rural areas. This voluntary program is led by RAC in collaboration with the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, and in partnership with railways, trucking and distribution companies, oil producers and chemical manufacturers. As some of the products moved via railways could be hazardous, TRANSCAER ensures communities are prepared to respond to incidents that involve the transportation of dangerous goods, such as chemical products and fuels. It goes without saying that RAC does everything possible to prevent harmful occurrences from happening during the transportation of dangerous goods, but the purpose of TRANSCAER is to prepare communities should there be an accident.

TRANSCAER provides free training to police, firefighters and emergency medical responders on how to handle incidents involving the transportation of dangerous goods via the TRANSCAER Safety Train — a “classroom on wheels.” The train (dubbed CCPX 911) teaches first responders how to handle a variety of scenarios, the features of railway tank cars, how to use certain equipment and how to efficiently communicate emergency scenarios with locals. In 2018, RAC and Canada’s Class 1 railways trained a whopping 5,200 emergency medical personnel, police officers, firefighters and industrial plant workers on emergency response protocols and how to handle these harmful goods safely and effectively.

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