TTD and Union Pacific disagree over safety technology deployment

The debate about how to manage visible inspections in the facial area of developments in security engineering continues. This time it’s railroad carmen defending the worth of visual inspections for brake testing and routine maintenance.

Union associates are responding to Union Pacific’s request to the Federal Railroad Administration to increase a waiver governing UP’s test plan 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 procedure, as nicely as increase the distance at which visible inspections would be performed. UP has been applying WTDs less than typical functioning and targeted visitors situations amongst 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 lessen visual inspections and conserve on overhead fees.

WTDs are “actually a beneficial product that’s plainly worthwhile as a enhance to the inspections, but [the technology is] genuinely about detecting the temperature on the rail,” Regan advised FreightWaves. WTDs have “to be applied as a complement to the inspections. A particular person is qualified to see the place there may possibly be a defect, wherever there could be a trouble down the street and what could want to be enhanced or upgraded or replaced in the around future. This product simply cannot do that.”

TTD also argued in a February letter to FRA that UP failed to assemble and offer any proof for evaluate that the waiver should really be renewed.

“Without any useful knowledge from UP’s Take a look at Waiver Committee to assist the extension, we do not think that the continued use of WTD technologies is a safe and sound and satisfactory substitute for physical inspections by skilled Carmen,” Regan reported in the February letter.

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

FRA claimed its basic safety board denied UP’s petition in July 2021 simply because the railroad did not provide sufficient info and analysis completely demonstrating the claimed protection added benefits. 

“We consider that the target of bringing new engineering into a hundreds of years aged field 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 employees who are extremely skilled and remarkably expert at what they do are provided more resources to do their work in the most secure achievable fashion,” Regan claimed.

He continued, “We welcome these variations. We want to make our career safer. We want to make guaranteed that the union that the employees have every single software at their disposal to do their work opportunities properly. But this is not the way to do that. Asking for waivers is not the way to do it correctly and to make positive that it’s implemented in a liable way.”

The debate more than WTDs is very similar to the one particular that unionized servicing-of-way personnel are possessing with the railroads over how the railroads should really deploy observe geometry technological innovation, a element of automatic observe inspections. They contend that BNSF’s (NYSE: BRK.K) request to FRA to extend that technology’s deployment to two added territories is an chance to reduce the selection of visual inspections within just these territories.

Union Pacific defends use of WTDs

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

“The use of technological know-how is an opportunity for Union Pacific to increase on its strong protection document. Our initial results reveal that wheel temperature detectors identify a lot more defects than regular detection solutions, which interprets into a safer procedure for each the public and our staff members,” UP explained to FreightWaves.

“The use of this technological know-how will not remove visual inspections by qualified personnel. The wheel temperature detectors improve the frequency of when a test is necessary, reducing avoidable brake tests and permitting our inspectors and train crews to aim interest on individuals brakes that warrant consideration,” UP mentioned.

The Affiliation of American Railroads, which has lent its aid to UP’s waiver requests, claimed it supports its members’ motivation to go after security maximizing systems these kinds of as WTDs.

WTDs establish autos with ineffective brakes at a increased amount than a manually carried out intermediate brake take a look at, AAR stated. As a consequence, the technological know-how expedites the mend or substitution of countless numbers of freight motor vehicle brakes that may well not have normally been immediately determined beneath present FRA regulations. 

AAR also stated that all vehicles determined by a wheel temperature detector had already passed a manually-performed FRA initial terminal brake exam.

FRA is nevertheless examining UP’s waiver. But it has claimed that there is practically nothing to protect against a railroad from utilizing WTDs or “hot wheel detectors” to assure brake wellness success. These types of programs can properly ascertain if brakes are working thoroughly in genuine time, in accordance to FRA.

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