Railinc Tracks Blog

Railinc tracks are everywhere although you don't always see them. The Railinc Tracks blog reveals them one at a time and shows you how we help to keep railroads, railcars and rail shipments moving across America. The blog is staffed by the Railinc Corporate Communication team and will give you news and insights about our company, our people and our products.

Freight Rail's Ripple Effect Benefits U.S. Economy

An auto carrier railcar moves vehicles across the country.

Freight rail is one of the basic building blocks of the U.S. economy, and its impact creates an immense ripple effect that touches all regions, including the Research Triangle, and most industries.

How big is that ripple effect?

Spending by Class I railroads created nearly $274 billion in economic activity, generated almost $33 billion in total tax revenues and supported about 1.5 million jobs across the country in 2014. That’s according to findings in the most recent State of the Industry Report from the Association of American Railroads (AAR), Railinc’s parent organization.

Railroads Contribute Billions in Tax Revenue, Pay Billions in Wages

Commissioned by the AAR and released June 13, the report is the first to quantify the freight-railroad sector’s economic and fiscal impact on the U.S. The industry, the report shows, is a jobs generator, creating a wide range of opportunities in areas including business operations, mechanical services, engineering and technology. Combined, workers in these jobs earn $88 billion in wages each year.

The jobs have a broad impact on the entire economy. For example, the report found that one job in the freight rail industry supports nine others touched by the industry, including retail, manufacturing, and transportation and warehousing.

Other highlights from the report include:

  • The industry had nearly $28 billion in capital and maintenance expenditures in 2014, an amount equal to more than half of all federal government spending on transit formula grants, federal highway construction programs and airport improvement programs.

  • The industry generated $20.9 billion in federal tax revenues and $11.9 billion in state and local taxes in 2014.

  • Railroad activity supported 234,000 retail trade sector jobs, about 125,000 manufacturing jobs, and 113,000 transportation and warehousing jobs in 2014.

Railinc, Employees Help to Grow Local Economy

Railinc employees discussing rail data.

Though the report focuses on railroads’ broad economic impact, Railinc also delivers real economic benefits to the engine that helps grow the industry and the communities where our employees live right here in North Carolina, from Greensboro to Greenville. Railinc’s technology work is woven into customers’ daily operations, but the tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue the company produces also helps to generate revenue for other businesses and grow the local economy.

These contributions come in the form of partnerships with local IT and technology vendors such as Red Hat, SASCitrix and Rally, resourcing from staffing agency vendors such as The Select Group and Alphanumeric Systems, the lease on Railinc’s building, which Raleigh-based Highwood Properties owns, and even our coffee, which comes from Larry's Beans, a downtown Raleigh roaster. We contribute to the business community through the N.C. Technology Association, the Council for Entreprenurial Development and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. We are also strong backers of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, which helps feed those in need in our community. 

Railinc supports the economy, too, through its 285 employees, contractors and consultants, who use their paychecks to dine out, join PTAs, make car, house and rent payments, go to Carolina Hurricanes hockey games, shop in local stores and pay for services that enable businesses to provide jobs and pay wages that help to grow the economy. Many employees also receive a Railinc-paid education at Meredith College, N.C. State University or UNC-Chapel Hill; or they receive training through the N.C. Project Management Institute.

Railinc is proud of its technology that helps keep the North American freight rail industry moving. We're also proud that our work helps keep our employees and the Triangle moving too.

Read the entire State of the Industry Report at https://www.aar.org/Report-2 and see AAR President Ed Hamberger deliver a short overview at https://youtu.be/QWrPCbButvw.

—Railinc Corporate Communications

Railinc Supports Growth, Training for Employees

As a release administrator on Railinc's Infrastructure Services and Support Team, Robert Redd works to make sure the company's applications are working for customers and that developers have the infrastructure they need to do their jobs.

He tweaks automated builds to account for changes developers make to code. He makes sure the automated build system is functioning properly. He creates dashboards for performance and uptime analysis for Railinc systems. And he keeps up with new technologies that can improve the way the company's developers work.

"I'm always learning new things at Railinc," Robert said. "We're always trying out new technologies to see if they fit our goals as a company."

Recently, Robert participated in a beta Jenkins certification initiative and became one of the first Jenkins-certified engineers in the world, earning the CloudBees Jenkins Platform Engineer Certification with the support of Railinc. Jenkins is an open-source continuous integration tool that powers Railinc's automated testing and build systems. Railinc has used the tool since its release in 2011 and used its predecessor, Hudson.

Jenkins Essential to Railinc Development Process

Jenkins is critical to the development process at Railinc. Anytime a developer submits a code change, Jenkins reads the code and immediately begins compiling and testing it. Robert also uses Jenkins to help make developers' jobs easier, automating tasks such as the deployment of applications to development and pre-product environments, the building of queues and the creation of listener ports.

Before Jenkins, Railinc would do a build every three to six months. At the end of a development cycle, Robert said, there would be late nights spent compiling code and looking for errors. Now, we can do builds every two weeks and the tedious tasks that seemed to take forever are automated.

"Jenkins supports the Agile methodology we use here, and it helps immensely with our code quality and speed to market," Robert said.

Training, Professional Development a Hallmark of Railinc Culture

A former tank commander in the U.S. Army, Robert came to Railinc in 2000 as a Java team lead and has also held business analyst and database administrator roles. As he has moved from role to role, he has taken advantage of Railinc training to keep up with technology changes and find new ways to work. You can learn more about Robert in his Careers profile.

"The certification shows how Railinc supports efforts by employees to learn new technologies and even get recognition for their knowledge," Robert said. "We're encouraged to use and test and learn new technologies here, and I get to work with a lot of different tools, which is really fun."

Certifications are just one way Railinc supports its employees' professional growth. It's not unusual to see dozens of employees packed in the company's training room for regular technology training sessions that cover everything from Java to security to data storage.

Most new employees come to Railinc with little knowledge of the freight rail industry. To help give their careers in the industry a kick start, the company provides training that covers railroad industry fundamentals. Railinc even sends groups of employees to CSX's Railroad Education and Development Institute (REDI), where they get a firsthand look at a working rail yard and get to pilot a locomotive simulator, drive a railroad spike and learn about rail safety. Click the image below to view a slideshow highlighting a Railinc visit to CSX REDI.

Railinc Training at CSX -- May 2015

There are also more personalized resources that supports career development, from online training tools for business and technical skills to a Career Paths program, which helps employees design their own personal action plan for pursuing their career goals. Railinc also offers a generous tuition reimbursement program, which employees have used to pursue advanced degrees like MBAs and to take a one-off course to refresh skills or just learn something new.

"The freight rail industry is constantly changing, as is the technology we use to support it," said Jerry Traynham, Railinc's chief information officer. "These kinds of initiatives and the training and education employees like Robert get help employees reach their career goals and help develop the innovative thinkers we need to serve our customers."

—Railinc Corporate Communications

Railinc Named a Top Logistics IT Provider

Inbound Logistics magazine has named Railinc Corp. among the Top 100 Logistics IT Providers for 2016. This is the fifth time in the last six years that the publication has recognized the company for this annual award.

"Railinc continues to provide the technology solutions Inbound Logistics readers need for freight rail shipment visibility and rail fleet management control that drives successful supply chains," said Felecia Stratton, editor of Inbound Logistics. "As rail shippers and 3PLs continue to increase their use of logistics IT, Railinc remains flexible and responsive, anticipating customers’ evolving needs. Railinc deserves recognition for providing the innovative solutions empowering logistics and supply chain excellence in 2016."

Many of Railinc's products support critical operations throughout the freight rail industry. The company’s RailSight suite of applications delivers valuable tracking and tracing data to improve network, equipment and shipment visibility, manage exceptions, optimize rail fleets and manage loaded and empty rail equipment. Railinc's Umler® system is the industry's official resource for data on rail equipment used in interline service across North America. The company utilizes its software and technology systems to deliver operational data, provide business intelligence and produce custom reports to that enhance freight rail shipping.

"Increased competitive and economic pressures since last year have put more focus on delivering opportunities to improve business by leveraging Railinc’s unique capabilities," said Chuck Hieronymi, director of business solutions.

"We continue to create better, faster solutions with our data, software as a service and analytics offerings. In spite of growing headwinds, we continue to expand our business with many global and domestic leaders with intermodal, rail shipper and railcar owners, transportation management systems, logistics services providers and ports. They all understand that better data leads to better operational and strategic insights which, in turn drives better business performance."

Each year, Inbound Logistics editors recognize 100 logistics IT companies that support and enable logistics excellence. Drawn from a pool of more than 300 companies, using questionnaires, personal interviews, and other research, Inbound Logistics selects the Top 100 Logistics IT Providers who are leading the way in 2016.

"It is always an honor for Railinc to be recognized for its work to serve the technology needs of the freight rail industry," said Allen West, president and CEO. "This award is a testament to the value we strive to deliver every day through our products and services."

—Railinc Corporate Communications

Rail Equipment Reports Detail Growth of Fleets

Railinc's Umler® system contains data on more than 2 million pieces of rail equipment used in interline service, from railcar type to manufacture date to locomotive fuel capacity and horsepower. With a simple query of the system, you can learn a lot about an individual railcar or locomotive. But considered together, these data can provide powerful insights into the size and makeup of the railcar and locomotive fleets in North America.

Each year, Railinc Senior Analyst Dr. David Humphrey, right, uses the data to create demographic profiles of the railcar and locomotive fleets and presents the information at the Rail Equipment Finance Conference in La Quinta, Calif. Railinc representatives have appeared at the conference since 1999, and Humphrey has presented on the data since 2010. This year, he delivered his presentations via videoconference from Railinc’s Cary headquarters because he was recovering from surgery to repair a broken leg suffered while running.

"Conference attendees look forward to David’s presentations, which have become an integral part of our event each year,” said David Nahass, president of Railroad Financial Corporation, which holds the conference. "They know the quality of Railinc’s data, and they get a great deal of value out of the information he provides. In a break with tradition and in evidence of the importance of David's and Railinc's contributions to the program, we had David on live feed to make his presentation this year. His presentation is an asset that we hold in the highest regard."

About 400 people attended the conference in March, including representatives from railcar lessors and lessees, banks, shippers, Class I railroads, short line railroads and finance companies.

In the Q&A below, David Humphrey discusses the railcar and locomotive fleets, how people use the research, and overall trends for railcars and locomotives. More detailed information about the fleets is available in the 2016 North American Freight Railcar Review and the 2016 North American Locomotive Review, both of which are free to download. You can also download the slides from David's conference presentations on the railcar and locomotive fleets.

The railcar report looks at the revenue-earning fleet in detail. What is the revenue-earning fleet?
The revenue-earning fleet, a subset of the North American rail fleet, consists of six sub-fleets: hoppers, covered hoppers, gondolas, flat cars, tank cars and box cars. These cars can be used in interchange service and can be associated with a waybill. The revenue-earning fleet of freight cars excludes locomotives, intermodal trailers and containers, maintenance-of-way equipment and end-of-train devices.

How do people use the data you present?
Railinc and its Umler Equipment Index are known as a definitive source of quality data on the status of the North American railcar fleet. The information presented is a great introduction to all of the freight car-related topics that are covered in the first two days of the conference. The conference has a focus on the financial aspects of buying, selling, leasing and building freight cars and locomotives. The age demographic data we present on the sub-fleets are of great interest to companies as a snapshot of where they stand. The information helps them as they make decisions that affect their businesses in the short and long term.

What were the major trends for the revenue-earning fleet?
Driven by increases in the tank car and covered hopper populations, the revenue-earning fleet grew by 3.3 percent in 2015. The flat car sub-fleet grew slightly, while the box car, gondola and hopper sub-fleets contracted. The fleet is getting younger. Both the average and median age of the fleet were down. And the fleet continues its shift to large cars. Cars with a gross rail load of 286,000 pounds make up 83 percent of new additions to the fleet in the last six years.

And for locomotives?
The locomotive fleet grew by about 1,100 units—or about 3 percent—from the previous year. The age of the fleet increased, though locomotives have long service lives. Also, high-horsepower, AC locomotives with six axles and high fuel capacity make up the majority of new additions to the fleet.

The 2016 North American Freight Railcar Review and the 2016 North American Locomotive Review are available to download for free, as are slides from Humphrey's presentations on the railcar and locomotive fleets and past years' reports. Railinc provides quarterly updates on the revenue-earning fleet in its Umler Equipment Index.

—Railinc Corporate Communications

Security Critical to Customers, Continuity

Did you know that thing you ordered isn't going to get here on time? At least that's what the email said. Recently, Railinc employees, contractors and consultants got a strange looking email with the subject line "Your package shipping has been delayed." They were right to be suspicious.

Cybersecurity threats exist in many forms today - from the lone hacker looking to wreak havoc, to hacker groups looking to avenge social or political grudges, to nation states looking for new avenues of warfare. Organizations like Railinc are adapting to this changing landscape with more advanced security tools, practices, and policies. Railinc is focused on protecting employees, customer data and IT infrastructure.

The email described above was part of a phishing exercise Railinc conducted as part of its ongoing cybersecurity program. Railinc takes security seriously and works hard to protect its data and systems by implementing the most up-to-date security controls, constantly monitoring and testing company systems, and mandating regular training for its workforce.

Simple emails like the one Railinc employees received might seem like they're not a big deal, but they can expose a company to cyberattacks that can compromise data or cripple technology infrastructure. This social engineering tactic is used to trick people into divulging information or taking an action, like clicking on a malicious l ink or opening an infected attachment.

No anti-malware or anti-virus product is 100 percent effective. Exercising good judgment and acting as a "human firewall" is the best way to ward off social engineering attacks. Employees also help Railinc stay on top of these attacks by reporting them to the company's security team.

"It's important for us to know when phishing attacks target our employees," said Tom Morris, Railinc's senior security analyst. "Knowing how we're being targeted and what we're being targeted with helps us understand what we need to do to continue to keep our data, hardware and systems secure."

Railinc Continues to Strengthen Security Program

In the last year, Railinc has beefed up its security program to guard against the increasing number, broadening scope and technical sophistication of attacks on its systems. From hardware encryption to employee education, these projects have focused on enhancing the company's security controls. Fortunately, Railinc experienced no security incidents in 2015 that affected service-level agreements or the integrity of customer data.

"Strong security controls are essential to Railinc's operations and are always at the front of mind for the company," said Jerry Traynham, Railinc's chief information officer. "Railinc's security team is constantly exploring systems, looking for threats to the company's infrastructure, applications and data."

Railinc tracked network vulnerabilities in 2015 such as Poodle, WinShock, GHOST and BASH that could have presented a threat to customer and corporate data. The security team regularly examined potentially vulnerable infrastructure and implemented the appropriate testing and fixes. Railinc also continued its intensive measurement program based on Center for Internet Security standards, tracking everything from system vulnerabilities to malware and suspicious email blocked. There were two minor security incidents in the first quarter of 2015—an email virus and an incident that was flagged as a potential denial-of-service attack. Railinc resolved both quickly.

The company's 2015 security program included the following activities:

  • Penetration testing to assess Railinc's risks and vulnerabilities, as well as security policies and practices.

  • Encryption initiatives to protect data, hardware and mobile devices.

  • Application security efforts that included analysis and upgrade of security around a number of critical products and systems.

Last year, 100 percent of Railinc employees, contractors and consultants completed four rounds of online security awareness training.


Railinc's workforce has embraced the culture of security. Last year, 100 percent of employees, contractors and consultants completed four rounds of online security awareness training. This training helped them recognize and report several potential security threats and vulnerabilities during the year, enabling Railinc's IT personnel to take immediate action. In a notable case, a Railinc team member identified and reported spoofed messages that targeted wire fraud, which the company reported to the FBI.

"Railinc will continue to educate employees on the latest security challenges and implement additional security framework components and processes to make sure applications, systems, network and data are secure," Traynham said. "These security measures are only as strong as the people who work behind them."

7 Signs of a Phishing Email

Be skeptical of any unexpected email messages you receive. While there is no single marker of a phishing attack, typical characteristics of phishing emails include:

1 - An unusual email address: Does the email come from a free service, like Yahoo or Hotmail? Is the user name a jumble of random letters? Are the "from" and "reply-to" addresses different? Is there a mismatch between the address and the signature in the email? If so, the message might be an attack.

2 - A generic greeting: Is the message addressed to you or does it have a generic salutation? Phishing emails usually do not have personalized greetings.

3 - A sense of urgency: Phishing emails often implore you to act immediately or risk missing out on the opportunity.

4 - Mistake-filled messages: Phishing emails often contain significant spelling and grammar errors and/or formatting problems.

5 - Suspicious links: Hover your cursor over a link to display its destination. If a link and the destination are different, don't click the link. Only click on links you are expecting.

6 - Unexpected attachments: Were you expecting an attachment? If not, don't open it. And if you do open an attachment, and it says you must "enable macros," don't.

7 - An offer that's too good to be true: You didn't win the lottery and you aren't going to get an iPad for $20. Delete the email.

—Railinc Corporate Communications