TTD and Union Pacific disagree over safety technology deployment

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The discussion about how to manage visible inspections in the facial area of improvements in safety know-how carries on. This time it is railroad carmen defending the value of visual inspections for brake testing and servicing.

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

UP (NYSE: UNP) is inquiring FRA to let the use of WTDs on intermodal trains operated on segments of UP’s system, as nicely as prolong the distance at which visual inspections would be done. UP has been working with WTDs less than normal working and targeted visitors problems involving the coal mines of Wyoming’s Powder River Basin and an unloading facility at White Bluff, Arkansas. 

But union members say UP’s target is to cut down visual inspections and conserve on overhead expenses.

WTDs are “actually a beneficial product that’s evidently precious 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 made use of as a enhance to the inspections. A particular person is skilled to see exactly where there may be a defect, where by there could be a issue down the street and what may possibly need to be enhanced or upgraded or replaced in the near long run. This product cannot do that.”

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

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

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

FRA reported its security board denied UP’s petition in July 2021 due to the fact the railroad did not offer enough knowledge and analysis thoroughly demonstrating the claimed safety rewards. 

“We think that the focus of bringing new technologies into a hundreds of years outdated industry like railroading … [should be] on producing railroads safer. It has to be a complement to what the personnel do. It has to make it so that personnel who are extremely experienced and highly skilled at what they do are specified added applications to do their employment in the most secure probable fashion,” Regan explained.

He continued, “We welcome these improvements. We want to make our job safer. We want to make absolutely sure that the union that the staff have just about every resource at their disposal to do their employment appropriately. But this is not the way to do that. Inquiring for waivers is not the way to do it thoroughly and to make confident that it’s executed in a responsible way.”

The debate in excess of WTDs is equivalent to the one particular that unionized upkeep-of-way workers are acquiring with the railroads more than how the railroads need to deploy track geometry technology, a element of automated observe inspections. They contend that BNSF’s (NYSE: BRK.K) ask for to FRA to develop that technology’s deployment to two more territories is an prospect to minimize the variety of visible inspections inside individuals territories.

Union Pacific defends use of WTDs

But UP suggests WTD technology has caught flaws that visual inspections have missed.

“The use of technological innovation is an chance for Union Pacific to increase on its robust protection file. Our first conclusions show that wheel temperature detectors establish additional flaws than classic detection strategies, which interprets into a safer procedure for equally the public and our staff members,” UP informed FreightWaves.

“The use of this technological know-how will not remove visual inspections by experienced staff. The wheel temperature detectors adjust the frequency of when a exam is necessary, reducing avoidable brake checks and enabling our inspectors and educate crews to concentrate consideration on people brakes that warrant attention,” UP claimed.

The Association of American Railroads, which has lent its guidance to UP’s waiver requests, stated it supports its members’ desire to pursue safety maximizing technologies these types of as WTDs.

WTDs recognize automobiles with ineffective brakes at a better level than a manually done intermediate brake exam, AAR stated. As a outcome, the engineering expedites the restore or alternative of hundreds of freight car brakes that may not have otherwise been immediately discovered underneath existing FRA regulations. 

AAR also claimed that all autos determined by a wheel temperature detector had presently handed a manually-done FRA preliminary terminal brake examination.

FRA is nonetheless reviewing UP’s waiver. But it has reported that there is almost nothing to protect against a railroad from using WTDs or “hot wheel detectors” to ensure brake well being usefulness. This kind of devices can correctly figure out if brakes are doing the job appropriately in true time, in accordance to FRA.

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