April 20, 2024


Simply Consistent

TTD and Union Pacific disagree over safety technology deployment

The debate about how to regulate visible inspections in the face of advances in safety technologies continues. This time it’s railroad carmen defending the importance of visual inspections for brake testing and maintenance.

Union customers are responding to Union Pacific’s ask for to the Federal Railroad Administration to increase a waiver governing UP’s test plan for wheel temperature detectors (WTDs). 

UP (NYSE: UNP) is asking FRA to allow for the use of WTDs on intermodal trains operated on segments of UP’s method, as very well as increase the length at which visible inspections would be done. UP has been using WTDs under regular functioning and targeted visitors circumstances involving the coal mines of Wyoming’s Powder River Basin and an unloading facility at White Bluff, Arkansas. 

But union members say UP’s goal is to lower visible inspections and save on overhead charges.

WTDs are “actually a handy system that is obviously beneficial as a enhance to the inspections, but [the technology is] really about detecting the temperature on the rail,” Regan instructed FreightWaves. WTDs have “to be employed as a complement to the inspections. A particular person is qualified to see wherever there could be a defect, where there could be a problem down the highway and what may need to be enhanced or upgraded or changed in the around foreseeable future. This device can not do that.”

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

“Without any handy knowledge from UP’s Examination Waiver Committee to support the extension, we do not believe that that the ongoing use of WTD technological know-how is a secure and acceptable substitute for bodily inspections by trained Carmen,” Regan reported in the February letter.

Regan instructed FreightWaves that FRA rejected UP’s waiver extension requests in 2014, 2017 and 2021. 

FRA reported its protection board denied UP’s petition in July 2021 since the railroad did not give ample facts and evaluation totally demonstrating the claimed security gains. 

“We believe that the aim of bringing new engineering into a centuries aged marketplace like railroading … [should be] on making railroads safer. It has to be a enhance to what the workers do. It has to make it so that personnel who are extremely properly trained and remarkably skilled at what they do are offered extra applications to do their work in the most secure doable method,” Regan reported.

He continued, “We welcome these changes. We want to make our task safer. We want to make guaranteed that the union that the workers have each individual software at their disposal to do their work appropriately. But this is not the way to do that. Asking for waivers is not the way to do it appropriately and to make confident that it is executed in a accountable way.”

The debate above WTDs is equivalent to the a single that unionized servicing-of-way employees are having with the railroads more than how the railroads really should deploy keep track of geometry know-how, a component of automated observe inspections. They contend that BNSF’s (NYSE: BRK.K) ask for to FRA to broaden that technology’s deployment to two more territories is an option to minimize the variety of visible inspections within just all those territories.

Union Pacific defends use of WTDs

But UP claims WTD technologies has caught defects that visible inspections have missed.

“The use of technology is an prospect for Union Pacific to make improvements to on its potent security file. Our preliminary findings suggest that wheel temperature detectors recognize much more problems than regular detection solutions, which interprets into a safer operation for both the community and our staff,” UP advised FreightWaves.

“The use of this technology will not remove visual inspections by properly trained staff. The wheel temperature detectors alter the frequency of when a exam is required, reducing pointless brake exams and allowing for our inspectors and practice crews to aim awareness on those people brakes that warrant interest,” UP reported.

The Affiliation of American Railroads, which has lent its assist to UP’s waiver requests, explained it supports its members’ desire to pursue safety boosting systems this sort of as WTDs.

WTDs detect cars and trucks with ineffective brakes at a larger amount than a manually performed intermediate brake check, AAR reported. As a end result, the technology expedites the mend or replacement of hundreds of freight car or truck brakes that might not have in any other case been right away discovered under current FRA restrictions. 

AAR also stated that all vehicles identified by a wheel temperature detector experienced previously passed a manually-carried out FRA preliminary terminal brake exam.

FRA is even now reviewing UP’s waiver. But it has said that there is nothing at all to prevent a railroad from using WTDs or “hot wheel detectors” to make sure brake health and fitness performance. This kind of methods can correctly establish if brakes are performing adequately in serious time, in accordance to FRA.

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