Five Cost-Effective Benefits of Railroad Digitalization

18 May 23

Railroad operators are investing in technology to realize operational efficiencies, enhance rail safety, improve sustainability, reduce costs, and guide strategic decision-making. 

Advancements in railroad technology are fundamentally transforming US freight, passenger and transit rail networks.

Railroad operators are increasing their digital capabilities by partnering with technology providers to gain a competitive advantage through cloud-based systems that integrate the capabilities of the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data. 

As the leading US provider of software-based railroad automation solutions, we’ve compiled a list of the key benefits of integrated IoT systems for railroads.

1. Operational Efficiency

At a time when freight volumes are increasing and transit passenger numbers are rebounding* **, railroad operators are under intense pressure to ensure rail networks operate as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

Cloud-based smart monitoring and analytics platforms are providing vastly improved visibility of rail assets, even in the most remote locations. Asset management can be proactive rather than reactive, reducing the length of time trains are idling and waiting for repairs, predicting and resolving malfunctions before they happen, and minimizing delays. 

2. Enhanced Rail Safety

Despite ongoing safety campaigns and innovative initiatives by railroad companies and governments, preventable accidents on US railways remain frustratingly high, especially at grade crossings***.

Railroad companies are utilizing data loggers at crossings to collect and deliver all live activity from specific locations, providing an ever-expanding database that both supports incident investigations and predicts failures. Whilst grade separation remains the only way to completely remove the risks, remotely accessible data loggers can be a highly cost-effective alternative to building a bridge.

As well, IoT systems are providing operators with a much better understanding of the root cause behind malfunctions in order to improve trackside safety and reduce incident numbers. 

3. Sustainability

As the most sustainable form of high-volume transport, railroads are at the forefront of the movement to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  As US railroad companies invest billions to reduce their carbon footprint, technology solutions are playing an important role. 

Smart software solutions such as Digital Track Warrant (DTW) applications, Remote Condition Monitoring (RCM), and Automated Yard Switching enable railroad operators to utilize longer trains that are able to move efficiently, more safely, and without delays, resulting in less emissions.  

Digital Track Warrant (DTW) applications eliminate the need for voice communications and paper forms during authority request processes, enabling workers to perform field activities using smart phones or tablets while on the go.

Remote Condition Monitoring (RCM) reduces carbon footprint by slashing the number of site visits required. An integrated system of non-intrusive sensors and cloud-based analytics software captures a vast amount of data for superior asset monitoring and failure alerts. 

Automated Yard Switching machines powered by solar energy reduce car dwell times while also improving employee safety and increasing the throughput of yards and terminals, while remote heater control cuts energy costs and improves the efficiency of multiple switch heaters.

4. Cutting Rail Operating Costs

Malfunction and faulty infrastructure cost the rail industry millions every year due to delays, wasted fuel, repair costs, labor costs, and damaged customer relations.

Keeping trains moving and on time is integral to improving operational efficiency to enable better profit margins. 

By increasing asset visibility and predictive maintenance, integrated cloud-based IoT systems position railroad companies to cut operating costs in multiple ways, for example, by decreasing repair and fuel bills, reducing on-site inspections, and ensuring railway engineers are deployed where they are most needed. 

In the US and globally, railroad operators are investing in technology solutions to future-proof rail networks and stay ahead of their competitors in a challenging fiscal environment. 

5. Strategic Decision-making

Having live, real-time access to comprehensive asset data means railroad operators can perform clear fault identification and perform precision-led decisions around failure prevention.

In the longer term, access to this ever-expanding database means operators have the detailed insights and 360° view they need to make strategic, informed decisions about future planning and resource organisation. 

Tracsis is attending the APTA Rail Conference from June 11 to 14, in Pittsburgh, PA, presented by HNTB. We look forward to talking to America’s rail managers, planners and suppliers about rail automation and digitalization. 

Find out more about how rail technology solutions can improve your bottom line.