TTD and Union Pacific disagree over safety technology deployment

The debate about how to regulate visible inspections in the experience of developments in basic safety technology continues. This time it is railroad carmen defending the importance of visible inspections for brake screening and upkeep.

Union associates are responding to Union Pacific’s request to the Federal Railroad Administration to increase a waiver governing UP’s examination program for wheel temperature detectors (WTDs). 

UP (NYSE: UNP) is asking FRA to allow the use of WTDs on intermodal trains operated on segments of UP’s technique, as properly as extend the length at which visual inspections would be done. UP has been using WTDs underneath ordinary operating and targeted visitors circumstances amongst the coal mines of Wyoming’s Powder River Basin and an unloading facility at White Bluff, Arkansas. 

But union users say UP’s goal is to decrease visible inspections and conserve on overhead charges.

WTDs are “actually a beneficial system which is plainly important as a complement to the inspections, but [the technology is] truly about detecting the temperature on the rail,” Regan explained to FreightWaves. WTDs have “to be utilized as a enhance to the inspections. A human being is properly trained to see where by there might be a defect, the place there could be a issue down the street and what may possibly will need to be enhanced or upgraded or changed in the in close proximity to upcoming. This system cannot do that.”

TTD also argued in a February letter to FRA that UP unsuccessful to collect and deliver any proof for critique that the waiver should really be renewed.

“Without any beneficial data from UP’s Check Waiver Committee to support the extension, we do not believe that the continued use of WTD technologies is a protected and acceptable substitute for bodily inspections by experienced Carmen,” Regan claimed in the February letter.

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

FRA reported its safety board denied UP’s petition in July 2021 mainly because the railroad did not deliver sufficient data and examination fully demonstrating the claimed protection positive aspects. 

“We believe that the concentrate of bringing new technological innovation into a generations aged sector like railroading … [should be] on creating railroads safer. It has to be a enhance to what the employees do. It has to make it so that workforce who are really skilled and very experienced at what they do are presented added equipment to do their positions in the most secure doable way,” Regan mentioned.

He ongoing, “We welcome these variations. We want to make our work safer. We want to make certain that the union that the employees 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 adequately and to make guaranteed that it is executed in a accountable way.”

The discussion in excess of WTDs is comparable to the one that unionized upkeep-of-way staff are owning with the railroads over how the railroads need to deploy track geometry know-how, a component of automatic keep track of inspections. They contend that BNSF’s (NYSE: BRK.K) request to FRA to extend that technology’s deployment to two added territories is an option to lower the selection of visual inspections within all those territories.

Union Pacific defends use of WTDs

But UP claims WTD technological innovation has caught defects that visual inspections have skipped.

“The use of know-how is an possibility for Union Pacific to enhance on its sturdy security report. Our first findings show that wheel temperature detectors determine a lot more problems than regular detection solutions, which interprets into a safer procedure for both equally the public and our staff members,” UP told FreightWaves.

“The use of this engineering will not eliminate visible inspections by qualified staff. The wheel temperature detectors transform the frequency of when a examination is expected, removing needless brake assessments and enabling our inspectors and train crews to concentration awareness on individuals brakes that warrant notice,” UP stated.

The Association of American Railroads, which has lent its help to UP’s waiver requests, reported it supports its members’ desire to go after safety improving systems these kinds of as WTDs.

WTDs establish cars with ineffective brakes at a higher amount than a manually carried out intermediate brake check, AAR stated. As a end result, the know-how expedites the restore or alternative of thousands of freight automobile brakes that may not have or else been immediately discovered underneath current FRA laws. 

AAR also claimed that all autos recognized by a wheel temperature detector experienced already handed a manually-executed FRA original terminal brake examination.

FRA is nonetheless examining UP’s waiver. But it has reported that there is absolutely nothing to avoid a railroad from employing WTDs or “hot wheel detectors” to ensure brake health effectiveness. This sort of techniques can correctly establish if brakes are operating properly in true time, in accordance to FRA.

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Click listed here for additional FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.

Stacee R. Grigg

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