10 Best Resources for Rail Industry Standards

Last Updated: January 17, 2023

The rail industry is subject to a variety of standards and regulations, and like regulatory oversight across all industries, these standards change over time as more effective safety measures are identified and new safety and operational risks are recognized. As such, rail industry companies are tasked with staying up-to-date on the most current standards to ensure compliance.

To make that task a bit easier, we’ve rounded up the top 10 resources for rail industry standards and regulatory guidance, including:

  1. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
  2. The European Rail Industry – UNIFE
  3. GS1
  4. International Rail Industry Standard (IRIS)
  5. American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
  6. The Rail Committee on Information Standards (RailCIS)
  7. Association of American Railroads (AAR)
  8. Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
  9. Railway Age
  10. International Railway Journal

1. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO)



The ISO is the leading international organization focused on worldwide standards across practically every industry. A search for “rail” produces 880 results for standards, more than 500 results for news, and thousands of documents, among other resources. This September 2017 article highlights some recent updates to rail industry standards.

2. The European Rail Industry – UNIFE



UNIFE has been representing the European rail manufacturing industry since 1992. UNIFE and its members work on setting interoperability standards and coordinate EU-funded research projects focusing on the technological harmonization of railway systems. UNIFE’s standard and regulation activities aim to “support the harmonisation and transparency of technical rules in Europe in order to facilitate the development and authorisation of rail products in Europe.” Read more about UNIFE’s standard and regulation activities here, or check out the European Rail Industry Pocket Guide for a quick look at the rail industry in Europe.

3. GS1



GS1 standards aim to streamline business communication, ensuring that key processes run smoothly in some of the world’s largest industries, such as healthcare, retail, and transport and logistics. GS1 partnered with the rail industry to develop three application standards, including:

More information on GS1’s rail industry standards, including links to brochures, decision support tools that can aid in implementing these standards, and case studies and events in the rail industry, can be found here. For information on general transport and logistics standards, visit this page.

4. International Rail Industry Standard (IRIS)


IRIS, which stands for International Rail Industry Standard, is “a globally recognized standard unique to the railway sector for the evaluation of management systems.” IRIS was established in 2005 as a UNIFE group and its main objective is “to develop and implement a global system for the evaluation of companies supplying to the railway industry with uniform; language, assessment guidelines and mutual acceptance of audits, which will create a high level of transparency throughout the supply chain.” The group defines requirements related to content, procedures, and the evaluation of audits, in addition to developing requirement profiles for certification bodies and auditors. IRIS provides a variety of useful resources on rail industry standards, including this helpful search tool for locating certified suppliers. For the latest news from IRIS, visit this page.

5. American National Standards Institute (ANSI)



ANSI is the voice of the U.S. standards conformity and assessment system, aiming to empower its members to strengthen the position of the U.S. in the global marketplace while simultaneously ensuring the health and safety of consumers as well as the protection of the environment. While membership is required to view certain resources and standards, a wealth of news and information can be found by searching for “rail industry.”

ANSI offers free e-learning resources via StandardsLearn.org and also partners with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Standards Alliance, a “funding facility designed to provide capacity-building assistance to developing countries, specifically related to implementation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement.” For resources on global trade, visit StandardsPortal.org, or search for standards by visiting ANSI’s IBR Standards Portal or the Standards Store.

6. The Rail Committee on Information Standards (RailCIS)


The Rail Committee on Information Standards, comprised of professionals in purchasing, material management, and finance and information systems within the North American rail industry, was organized to develop and implement standards related to the exchange of purchasing-related data in the rail industry. The Committee is responsible for implementing electronic commerce, with a focus on developing and maintaining industry EDI standards and offering support for EDI usage across the industry. The Committee’s primary goal is “to develop industry standards for the electronic interchange of purchasing-related documents,” and develops standards designed to be usable by every supplier without impacting suppliers’ relationships with individual railroads.

RailCIS also has a Quality Assurance Committee, which was created “to promote the implementation of recognized quality assurance systems by the major suppliers to North American railroads.” Additionally, RailCIS develops packaging standards. For more information on RailCIS’ programs and initiatives, visit this page.

7. Association of American Railroads (AAR)


Association of American Railroads

The Association of American Railroads (AAR), founded in 1934, is “the world’s leading railroad policy, research, standard setting, and technology organization that focuses on the safety and productivity of the U.S. freight rail industry.” AAR is the standards-setting organization for American railroads, establishing safety, security, and operating standards to facilitate safe, seamless operations across the 140,000 mile freight rail network in the United States.

AAR’s Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI) provides research, general statistical information, and economic, financial, and policy information in weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports. AAR’s other subsidiary, Railinc, “the industry’s largest and most accurate source for real-time interline rail data,” focuses on creating value for the American rail system. For the latest on rail policy issues, visit this page.

8. Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)


Federal Railroad Administration

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is one of 10 agencies within the Department of Transportation concerned with intermodal transportation. FRA’s mission is “to enable the safe, reliable, and efficient movement of people and goods for a strong America, now and in the future.” The FRA is responsible for regulating the safety of the U.S. rail system and the development of intercity passenger rail via legislative rules, interpretive rules and policy statements, and management and procedural rules. For official sources on FRA’s legislation, as well as policy and guidance documents, visit this page. Information on research, development, and technology can be found here, and detailed railroad safety data and insights can be found here.

9. Railway Age


Railway Age

Established in 1856, Railway Age is the leading rail industry trade journal in the United States. Railway Age reports on both freight and passenger railroading, covering safety, finance, analytics, regulatory issues, and everything else noteworthy impacting the rail industry. For regulatory news, such as administrative changes at oversight agencies, the latest safety data, and other regulatory insights, visit this page. Safety news and insights can be found here.

10. International Railway Journal


International Railway Journal

Another leading rail industry publication, the International Railway Journal (IRJ) has an international focus, covering all aspects of railways around the world for industry professionals. Launched in 1961, IRJ was the world’s first globally-distributed magazine for the railway industry. Those interested in the latest information on rail industry standards both in the U.S. and around the world, as well as other policy and regulatory news, will be most interested in IRJ’s policy channel, although the publication encompasses a wide variety of topics relating to safety, technology, financial news, and other insights. It’s also possible to sort by region, such as North America, Europe, Asia, and other regions for the most relevant regional news.

For companies impacted by regulatory standards, having the most current and reliable information on standards and regulatory changes is key. These 10 resources are valuable for staying abreast of everything you need to know about the rail industry.

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