Posts Tagged ‘emerging railroad technology’

SMART-TD, BLET announce launch of Information and Communications Technology survey

CLEVELAND, Ohio, (May 20) — The U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe), in partnership with the SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), is launching a survey in mid-May to learn more about Information and Communications Technology (ICT), which relates to the technology and tools that railroaders use to share, gather and communicate information. The purpose of the survey is to understand how best to communicate important safety-related information to union members and across the railroad industry.

The ICT survey, approved by both SMART-TD and BLET leadership, is being sent to a randomly selected sample of active train, yard, and engine railroaders. Everyone included in this sample is strongly encouraged to respond.

“We support this effort because we believe it will help us to better serve our members. We are collaborating with the Volpe team to reach our members for this survey. Please make time to complete the ICT questionnaire if you receive it,” SMART-TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson and BLET President Dennis R. Pierce explained.

Participation is voluntary and means only completing the questionnaire, which should take no more than 20 minutes. Unique codes for each questionnaire are assigned randomly to participants to keep responses strictly confidential.

Interested parties can learn more about the ICT Survey by contacting Dr. Heidi Howarth, the Volpe project lead, at heidi.howarth@dot.gov or 617-494-2522. This project is sponsored by the Office of Research, Development, and Technology of the Federal Railroad Administration.

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The U.S. DOT established Volpe in 1970 to serve as a federal resource positioned to provide world-renowned, multidisciplinary, multimodal transportation expertise on behalf of U.S. DOT’s operating administrations, the Office of the Secretary, and external organizations.

The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 58,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Railroad Technology Event Report form available online

To better understand and evaluate the use of certain technologies implemented by carriers, SMART Transportation Division is seeking information regarding the operation of the technologies such as Positive Train Control, Trip Optimizer/Leader and others.

In order for our organization to formulate a plan to protect members and the general public and to ensure the safety of the nation’s infrastructure, we are asking members to provide information when incidents or events occur that involve these technologies.

“By reporting these events, we can track these instances and find any trends that may be occurring with these technologies,” said Jared Cassity, alternate director — East for the SMART TD National Safety Team and Kentucky’s state legislative director.

On the right side of the main page of the SMART Transportation Division website, an electronic form for members to report a railroad technology event is linked in the box labeled “Railroad Technology Event Report.”

Reports submitted through this form go to union safety leadership for collection. These reports are not a substitute for filling out a report to a carrier or to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

Editorial: ‘For rail safety’s sake: ECP brake technology a must’ by John Risch, Natl. Legislative Director, SMART TD

By John Risch
National Legislative Director
SMART Transportation Division
JRisch@smart-union.org

Recently, I was the only labor participant in a technology roundtable before the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure where we discussed emerging technology in the railroad industry.

The focus of my comments was on Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) Brakes. I have operated trains with ECP brakes and they are the greatest safety advancement I have seen in my 40 years in the railroad industry. They slow and stop trains up to 70 percent faster than conventional brakes and are the safest most advanced train braking system in the world.

The railroad industry, in arguing against the implementation of ECP brakes, has claimed that dynamic brakes and distributive power are better choices. While they are correct that dynamic braking and distributive power are helpful in braking trains, the truth is – these two features are not nearly as effective as an ECP brake system.

Below is my Top 11 list (which is even better than a Top 10 list) on why ECP brakes are better than conventional air brakes:

1. ECP brakes maintain a train’s brake pipe pressure 100 percent of the time, conventional brakes do not. The colder the weather, the thinner the air, the more crucial maintaining brake pressure is.

2. ECP brakes allow for a”graduated release.” That means the engineer can partially release the train’s brakes without having to fully release them. This is vitally important because once a train’s brakes are released it takes time to recharge the train’s brake pipe pressure in order for the brakes to work again. The graduated release feature allows an engineer to maintain the speed of his/her train down steep grades with a partial application of the brakes, without fully releasing and reapplying the train’s brakes repeatedly. The graduated release feature all but eliminates the possibility of a runaway train.

3. When the engineer makes an emergency application of the brakes, every car with ECP brakes applies 100 percent of the time. This is not always true with conventional brakes.

4. ECP brakes would have prevented the terrible Lac-Megantic oil train tragedy that killed 47 people and destroyed the town, a factor cited in Transport Canada’s report on the accident. These brakes would have prevented the accident, because when air pressure on a car equipped with ECP brakes drops below 50 psi, the car automatically goes into emergency mode. So even an improperly secured train will not roll away.

5. ECP brakes allow the crew to monitor every car in the train in real time to determine if the brakes are applied or released. Conventional brakes do not.

6. ECP brakes record retrievable data associated with brake failures. There is no such review for conventional brakes. Trains are inspected every 1,000-1,800 miles and if the brakes are working during the inspection they continue on. If a car has brakes that fail to apply during that inspection, the car is taken to a repair facility. Often that facility is a heated shop where the car warms up, the brakes are tested and if they work at that point, the car is not repaired, rather, the car is placed back in the train.

7. ECP brakes all but eliminate in-train forces because all the cars apply and release at once. Conventional brakes cause lots of in-train forces, some of which damage merchandise and even cause derailments.

8. ECP brakes cause all cars to brake evenly, which dramatically reduces damage to wheels and brake shoes, saving a great deal of money in maintenance and repair. Conventional brakes do not. The modest cost of installing ECP brakes, about $3,000 per car on a new DOT 117 tank car that costs $144,000 to build, and about $60,000 per locomotive, will be more than paid for in the savings in car repairs, let alone reduced train derailments.

9. ECP brakes can be modified to apply hand brakes to a railcar automatically from the locomotive, allowing the crew to apply a hand brake on every car in the train in seconds. Conventional brakes must be applied by hand and it can take an hour or more to properly secure a train.

10. ECP brakes are required by the AAR for the movement of nuclear waste trains because they are the safest braking system available.

11. ECP brakes can be modified and will evolve to do everything that sophisticated wayside train detectors do now, and will do it constantly in real time, eventually eliminating the need for wayside detectors.

So, for the safety of rail workers, passengers and the residents in the cities and towns that trains run through, it is vital ECP brakes be phased-in in the freight rail industry.