December 1, 2023

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TTD and Union Pacific disagree over safety technology deployment

4 min read

The debate about how to deal with visible inspections in the confront of developments in security technology continues. This time it’s railroad carmen defending the relevance of visual inspections for brake testing and servicing.

Union members are responding to Union Pacific’s request to the Federal Railroad Administration to prolong a waiver governing UP’s test software for wheel temperature detectors (WTDs). 

UP (NYSE: UNP) is inquiring FRA to enable the use of WTDs on intermodal trains operated on segments of UP’s process, as nicely as extend the distance at which visible inspections would be performed. UP has been utilizing WTDs less than standard working and website traffic disorders among the coal mines of Wyoming’s Powder River Basin and an unloading facility at White Bluff, Arkansas. 

But union members say UP’s aim is to reduce visible inspections and save on overhead expenses.

WTDs are “actually a beneficial unit which is clearly precious as a enhance to the inspections, but [the technology is] really about detecting the temperature on the rail,” Regan advised FreightWaves. WTDs have “to be applied as a enhance to the inspections. A individual is trained to see the place there might be a defect, where by there could be a challenge down the road and what may well will need to be improved or upgraded or changed in the in close proximity to upcoming. This device simply cannot do that.”

TTD also argued in a February letter to FRA that UP unsuccessful to assemble and give any evidence for evaluation that the waiver must be renewed.

“Without any useful details from UP’s Exam Waiver Committee to support the extension, we do not consider that the ongoing use of WTD technologies is a safe and appropriate substitute for physical 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 mainly because the railroad did not provide sufficient information and examination completely demonstrating the claimed security rewards. 

“We believe that the aim of bringing new technological know-how into a centuries outdated sector like railroading … [should be] on producing railroads safer. It has to be a complement to what the workers do. It has to make it so that personnel who are highly properly trained and really experienced at what they do are offered supplemental resources to do their positions in the safest feasible fashion,” Regan explained.

He continued, “We welcome these adjustments. We want to make our job safer. We want to make certain that the union that the employees have each instrument at their disposal to do their employment correctly. But this is not the way to do that. Asking for waivers is not the way to do it properly and to make absolutely sure that it’s implemented in a liable way.”

The debate above WTDs is identical to the 1 that unionized routine maintenance-of-way personnel are owning with the railroads around how the railroads need to deploy observe geometry engineering, a part of automatic track inspections. They contend that BNSF’s (NYSE: BRK.K) request to FRA to grow that technology’s deployment to two extra territories is an opportunity to decrease the selection of visible inspections inside of individuals territories.

Union Pacific defends use of WTDs

But UP states WTD technology has caught flaws that visual inspections have skipped.

“The use of engineering is an opportunity for Union Pacific to increase on its potent basic safety history. Our preliminary results reveal that wheel temperature detectors determine extra flaws than common detection approaches, which translates into a safer operation for both the general public and our workers,” UP explained to FreightWaves.

“The use of this technologies will not reduce visual inspections by educated staff. The wheel temperature detectors change the frequency of when a take a look at is required, eliminating avoidable brake assessments and making it possible for our inspectors and coach crews to concentrate interest on all those brakes that warrant focus,” UP claimed.

The Association of American Railroads, which has lent its support to UP’s waiver requests, mentioned it supports its members’ motivation to go after protection improving technologies such as WTDs.

WTDs recognize vehicles with ineffective brakes at a higher amount than a manually carried out intermediate brake exam, AAR claimed. As a final result, the technology expedites the fix or substitution of countless numbers of freight motor vehicle brakes that could possibly not have if not been straight away identified beneath current FRA restrictions. 

AAR also stated that all automobiles determined by a wheel temperature detector had by now passed a manually-performed FRA preliminary terminal brake take a look at.

FRA is nonetheless examining UP’s waiver. But it has said that there is almost nothing to reduce a railroad from using WTDs or “hot wheel detectors” to guarantee brake wellness performance. These kinds of techniques can precisely identify if brakes are working thoroughly in authentic time, in accordance to FRA.

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