September 29, 2023

Tishamarie online

Specialists in technology

TTD and Union Pacific disagree over safety technology deployment

The debate about how to deal with visible inspections in the deal with of advancements in safety technological innovation proceeds. This time it is railroad carmen defending the value of visual inspections for brake screening and upkeep.

Union associates are responding to Union Pacific’s ask for to the Federal Railroad Administration to prolong a waiver governing UP’s exam method for wheel temperature detectors (WTDs). 

UP (NYSE: UNP) is inquiring FRA to make it possible for the use of WTDs on intermodal trains operated on segments of UP’s procedure, as effectively as increase the distance at which visible inspections would be carried out. UP has been utilizing WTDs underneath normal operating and site visitors problems in between the coal mines of Wyoming’s Powder River Basin and an unloading facility at White Bluff, Arkansas. 

But union members say UP’s intention is to lessen visible inspections and preserve on overhead expenses.

WTDs are “actually a valuable product that is plainly precious as a enhance to the inspections, but [the technology is] actually about detecting the temperature on the rail,” Regan told FreightWaves. WTDs have “to be made use of as a enhance to the inspections. A person is trained to see where by there may well be a defect, the place there could be a dilemma down the street and what might need to be enhanced or upgraded or replaced in the around long run. This unit are not able to do that.”

TTD also argued in a February letter to FRA that UP failed to get and supply any proof for review that the waiver need to be renewed.

“Without any helpful details from UP’s Check Waiver Committee to help the extension, we do not feel that the ongoing use of WTD technological know-how is a safe and acceptable substitute for physical inspections by experienced Carmen,” Regan claimed in the February letter.

Regan advised FreightWaves that FRA turned down UP’s waiver extension requests in 2014, 2017 and 2021. 

FRA stated its basic safety board denied UP’s petition in July 2021 for the reason that the railroad did not offer sufficient info and assessment absolutely demonstrating the claimed basic safety added benefits. 

“We feel that the focus of bringing new engineering into a hundreds of years previous business like railroading … [should be] on building railroads safer. It has to be a complement to what the personnel do. It has to make it so that employees who are extremely experienced and really skilled at what they do are provided additional instruments to do their work in the most secure possible method,” Regan stated.

He ongoing, “We welcome these changes. We want to make our occupation safer. We want to make positive that the union that the personnel have every single device at their disposal to do their positions correctly. But this is not the way to do that. Asking for waivers is not the way to do it appropriately and to make guaranteed that it is implemented in a liable way.”

The discussion over WTDs is very similar to the one that unionized maintenance-of-way staff are having with the railroads around how the railroads ought to deploy monitor geometry technology, a element of automated observe inspections. They contend that BNSF’s (NYSE: BRK.K) ask for to FRA to increase that technology’s deployment to two extra territories is an opportunity to lessen the number of visual inspections in those people territories.

Union Pacific defends use of WTDs

But UP suggests WTD technological know-how has caught defects that visible inspections have missed.

“The use of engineering is an possibility for Union Pacific to improve on its potent safety history. Our initial results suggest that wheel temperature detectors identify far more problems than conventional detection approaches, which translates into a safer operation for the two the general public and our workers,” UP advised FreightWaves.

“The use of this technological know-how will not reduce visual inspections by properly trained staff. The wheel temperature detectors change the frequency of when a take a look at is expected, eliminating avoidable brake tests and making it possible for our inspectors and prepare crews to concentrate consideration on all those brakes that warrant focus,” UP explained.

The Affiliation of American Railroads, which has lent its support to UP’s waiver requests, stated it supports its members’ wish to pursue basic safety maximizing technologies such as WTDs.

WTDs recognize cars and trucks with ineffective brakes at a higher fee than a manually done intermediate brake take a look at, AAR explained. As a consequence, the engineering expedites the maintenance or replacement of 1000’s of freight motor vehicle brakes that may possibly not have or else been quickly discovered beneath present FRA regulations. 

AAR also stated that all cars and trucks identified by a wheel temperature detector experienced by now passed a manually-executed FRA preliminary terminal brake examination.

FRA is nevertheless examining UP’s waiver. But it has explained that there is nothing to prevent a railroad from using WTDs or “hot wheel detectors” to be certain brake overall health efficiency. These kinds of programs can properly decide if brakes are operating thoroughly in genuine time, according to FRA.

Subscribe to FreightWaves’ e-newsletters and get the latest insights on freight ideal in your inbox.

Click in this article for additional FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.