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International Forwarding Association Blog » Cargo Moving » New Train Technologies to Prevent Derailment and Improve Safety
trains carry oversized cargo

New Train Technologies to Prevent Derailment and Improve Safety

Advanced technologies can make rail transport safer, more efficient, and cost-efficient. New practices such as speed restrictions and more rigorous track inspections help improve safety. Freight car defect detectors are also increasingly used to monitor sound, temperature, force, and other indicators and identify defects.

Infrastructure and Track Inspections

Multiple studies have shown that broken welds and rails are the main culprits for derailment and fatal accidents. Track geometry, including elevation, gauge, and alignment also lead to train derailments. To overcome this problem, operators now use geometry vehicles to perform inspections. Some carriers also use ground-penetrating radars and ultrasonic systems to identify defects.

shipping of hazardous goods

Risk Assessment

Risk assessment also helps improve rail safety and includes measures such as assessment of track quality, train routing, and speed as well as defect inspection. Carriers also use integrated frameworks to monitor reliability, resource usage, and capacity and thus assess safety and financial risks associated with the shipping of hazardous goods. The framework focuses on railcar design, physical infrastructure, routing, and operating practices for improved safety.

Models of integrated communication and signaling aim to enhance the transfer of information between control centres and trains. Integrated frameworks operate at three levels, bottom, middle, and top level. The middle level establishes set-points for trains to drive while the bottom level is responsible for energy control. The top level develops real-time operation plans and scheduling for trains to keep safe distances.

Braking Systems

Given that trains carry oversized cargo, braking systems such as electronically controlled pneumonic brakes can be used to distribute power throughout the center, rear, and front of the train. Positive train control is also used to stop or reduce speed and prevent accidents due to derailment or collision. They often occur as a result of missing signals or driving at high speed. Positive train control helps monitor movements to prevent accidents such as unauthorized train entry, malfunctioning of track switches, and derailment due to high speed. The system cannot be used to prevent accidents that occur as a result of malfunctioning equipment. Positive train control is mainly used to collect real-time information about rail track conditions, speed limits, and movement authority limits. It can be installed on freight, commuter, and passenger trains to improve efficiency and safety. The main components include advanced software, base stations, antennae, cellular technology, radios, Wi-Fi, and GPS that help stop or reduce speed.

Condition Monitoring Technologies

Detectors placed at various locations along the route help monitor the performance of freight cars and locomotives. They are equipped with components such as load impact sensors, machine vision systems, laser systems, acoustic bearing detectors, and infrared temperature sensors. Laser systems are used to detect worn and defect wheels and to check wheel profiles. Machine vision systems are also used to identify missing and broken safety systems, structural defects, and low air-hoses. Acoustic bearing detectors are installed to monitor for rolling-element bearings that are worn out while temperature sensors direct infrared energy beams to detect overheated bearings and wheels.