May 29, 2024


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TTD and Union Pacific disagree over safety technology deployment


The debate about how to control visible inspections in the deal with of innovations in security technologies carries on. This time it is railroad carmen defending the importance of visible inspections for brake testing and upkeep.

Union members are responding to Union Pacific’s request to the Federal Railroad Administration to lengthen a waiver governing UP’s check plan 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 program, as nicely as lengthen the length at which visible inspections would be done. UP has been utilizing WTDs less than usual running and site visitors conditions amongst the coal mines of Wyoming’s Powder River Basin and an unloading facility at White Bluff, Arkansas. 

But union customers say UP’s purpose is to reduce visual inspections and save on overhead costs.

WTDs are “actually a practical device which is obviously beneficial as a enhance to the inspections, but [the technology is] seriously about detecting the temperature on the rail,” Regan explained to FreightWaves. WTDs have “to be applied as a complement to the inspections. A human being is properly trained to see wherever there might be a defect, where there could be a issue down the road and what may possibly have to have to be enhanced or upgraded or changed in the around upcoming. This device cannot do that.”

TTD also argued in a February letter to FRA that UP failed to assemble and give any evidence for review that the waiver should be renewed.

“Without any valuable knowledge from UP’s Check Waiver Committee to support the extension, we do not feel that the ongoing use of WTD technological innovation is a secure and satisfactory substitute for actual physical inspections by trained 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 said its basic safety board denied UP’s petition in July 2021 due to the fact the railroad did not give ample info and analysis fully demonstrating the claimed safety added benefits. 

“We imagine that the aim of bringing new technological know-how into a centuries old industry like railroading … [should be] on making railroads safer. It has to be a enhance to what the employees do. It has to make it so that workers who are really properly trained and hugely skilled at what they do are presented added equipment to do their positions in the most secure feasible method,” Regan mentioned.

He continued, “We welcome these alterations. We want to make our task safer. We want to make sure that the union that the staff have each individual software at their disposal to do their employment appropriately. But this is not the way to do that. Asking for waivers is not the way to do it adequately and to make confident that it is executed in a dependable way.”

The discussion more than WTDs is equivalent to the one particular that unionized maintenance-of-way employees are acquiring with the railroads in excess of how the railroads really should deploy observe geometry technology, a part of automatic observe inspections. They contend that BNSF’s (NYSE: BRK.K) request to FRA to expand that technology’s deployment to two more territories is an possibility to lessen the number of visible inspections within people territories.

Union Pacific defends use of WTDs

But UP says WTD technology has caught flaws that visible inspections have skipped.

“The use of technological know-how is an option for Union Pacific to make improvements to on its strong basic safety report. Our first results indicate that wheel temperature detectors determine far more problems than standard detection methods, which interprets into a safer procedure for each the public and our staff,” UP told FreightWaves.

“The use of this know-how will not get rid of visible inspections by trained staff. The wheel temperature detectors alter the frequency of when a examination is essential, reducing unnecessary brake exams and making it possible for our inspectors and coach crews to concentration focus on those brakes that warrant focus,” UP explained.

The Affiliation of American Railroads, which has lent its aid to UP’s waiver requests, stated it supports its members’ motivation to pursue basic safety enhancing systems such as WTDs.

WTDs establish cars with ineffective brakes at a larger charge than a manually done intermediate brake test, AAR stated. As a end result, the engineering expedites the repair or substitute of countless numbers of freight motor vehicle brakes that could not have usually been right away determined less than present FRA restrictions. 

AAR also claimed that all vehicles recognized by a wheel temperature detector experienced currently handed a manually-performed FRA first terminal brake check.

FRA is continue to examining UP’s waiver. But it has reported that there is nothing at all to avert a railroad from employing WTDs or “hot wheel detectors” to guarantee brake wellbeing performance. These methods can precisely decide if brakes are doing the job adequately in true time, according to FRA.

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Click listed here for much more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.


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