Volpe mechanical engineer David Tyrell was recently featured on NOVA’s documentary Why Trains Crash, which explores recent rail tragedies and technological advances that can help prevent train crashes.
Tyrell and his team are often among the first people on a crash site. They investigate large-scale train crashes with their Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) sponsor to understand how a crash unfolded, how passengers could have survived, and lessons learned.
“Volpe’s longstanding partnership with FRA has enabled us to meet their needs rapidly and perform quality work on crashworthiness programs,” said Tyrell, who is Volpe’s principal technical advisor for train crashworthiness and safety. “Because of this relationship, Volpe has directly impacted railroad safety and has helped increase survivability in train accidents, resulting in saving lives.”
Tyrell has worked at Volpe for 35 years, primarily on train crashworthiness and on ensuring train designs and specifications meet new safety standards.
“It’s hard to get on a train these days that hasn’t been affected by our work,” Tyrell said. “People have survived accidents because of what we do. It’s very rewarding.”
The documentary highlights key areas of rail safety that Volpe has been addressing for 45 years, including rail infrastructure safety, positive train control, crash energy management, rail car safety, and rail grade crossing safety.
Along with Tyrell, experts featured in the NOVA documentary include former FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg, retired FRA Director of Research and Development Steve Ditmeyer, and National Transportation Safety Board Investigator-In-Charge Ted Turpin.