Like in many other areas, digitalization in rail freight transportation has been a game changer in the last few years. But contrary to developments in many aspects of daily life, like communication and healthcare, cutting-edge solutions concerning rail freight transportation are not something commonly known.
In this article, we’ll shed light on some of these solutions, paying particular attention to ones regarding safety enhancements. Undoubtedly, technology-driven risk management covering rail freight transportation is something economies, retailers, and millions of consumers can gain a lot with.
Many issues can be tackled using high tech in rail transport, with human errors topping the list. Seamless rail logistics management helps streamline transportation processes and avoid accidents and cargo damages – thus saving a lot of time and money.
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Modern rail freight transport in brief
Economical, reliable, and convenient – rail transportation is considered 3-4 times more affordable than shipping loads by truck. That’s mainly due to capacity differences, with trucks handling up to two containers per trip, and freight trains – about 300.
However, for greater efficiency and money savings, rail network, rail lines, and freight cars can also become a part of intermodal transportation. In brief, that’s a long-haul movement of large-sized cargo in steel containers where at least two modes of transportation (like truck, ship, and aircraft) are combined.
Today, many countries and organizations (including the European Union) prioritize modern rail freight transportation. The EU praises it for its cost-effectiveness and energy efficiency, emphasizing that „rail is 9 times less CO2-emitting than road”, and „7 times more energy-efficient”.
Rail transport – cutting-edge technologies in use
Modern rail infrastructure is often smart infrastructure that uses drones, smart sensor technologies, remote monitoring, and asset tracking solutions. But inspecting railway tracks is just one area where cutting-edge technologies help; they also propel enhancements such as automatic train control (ATC), smart locomotives, and digital communication platforms. Intelligent freight trains, based on automation and digitalization, are on the horizon, too.
Some of the technologies used to enhance rail freight transport include Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, and predictive analytics, as well as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). They improve areas such as automation, fleet management, rail logistics, cybersecurity, and physical safety.
The bottom line is making rail transportation more digital and less risky. This can be achieved with advanced diagnostics systems that let identify risks sooner, but also managing operations and shaping processes more proactively, contrary to just solving problems as they occur.
Rail freight transportation: managing risks with technology
Using freight cars (rail cars or railway wagons) and rail freight transportation, in general, is a relatively safe method of shipping loads. However, certain risks are involved in operating rail routes, but they can be mitigated with high-tech solutions.
Let’s have a look at some of them.
Risk 1: Accidents and collisions
There are many interesting anti-collision technologies already implemented or in the development phase. One of them tries to tackle fallen leaves on the line with sensors located near train wheels. When a train runs over wet leaves, there’s almost no friction as they create a slippery material similar to black ice. Obviously, that’s a very dangerous situation that can lead to crashes, collisions, and other low-adhesion events on freight railroads.
Of course, there are more ideas on how to make the freight rail network safer. For example, automatic train protection (ATP) systems use a variety of solutions and measures to prevent railway accidents, including train crashes. A train can be stopped automatically with an emergency brake activation in the case when the train exceeds speed limits.
Risk 2: Cargo damages, theft & other transportation issues
Physical damage to freight shipment is a serious transportation issue. On top of that, the load can be lost, stolen, contaminated, or infested. Many conditions need to be fulfilled for the load to reach the place of destination intact. The cargo has to be well-balanced, properly secured, packed correctly, and stored at the right temperature, with appropriate humidity and ventilation provided.
What may help is inspecting railway tracks with drones, smart wayside sensors, and remote monitoring. Gathering rail network data, using shock-absorbing packaging, applying 3D surveillance systems, and physical security information management (PSIM) solutions are some of the ways of preventing worst-case scenarios.
Risk 3: Delays
Train delays are a common issue that gives many people a headache. There are many attempts to tackle this issue, and some of them include using neural networks for train delay prediction, and machine learning for planning alternative routes based on changing circumstances.
Another interesting solution in this regard is real-time transportation visibility platforms (RTTVP) which give carriers a comprehensive outlook of the current situation of orders and shipments, streamline the supply chain, prevent delays, and address them promptly if they occur. APIs, EDIs, feeds from telematics, and smartphones can all be used to make it happen.
Tech-driven rail freight transport safety – key takeaways
Making shipments delivered on time and in a secure way for all parties involved is a huge advantage of using tech-driven freight transport solutions. They address and solve many safety issues and concerns that occur along the way.
Of course, it’s not that easy, and tackling them right is a huge challenge. But more and more advanced technologies that enhance smart detection systems, traffic management systems, digital signaling, cloud orchestration, and data visualization help make rail freight transport safer day by day.
It’s worth making an effort because the existing risks are significant, and their outcomes – very costly and sometimes even detrimental. Some of them include derailment, various kinds of accidents, crashes, as well as stealing or damaging the load.
Tight truckload capacity and the need for choosing greener solutions make many manufacturers and retailers turn to rail shipping. A cutting-edge freight train and highly-efficient rail infrastructure can certainly be the answer to many challenges of modernity, provided major security measures are met.
Want to make sure your rail freight transport is properly protected? If you’re looking for tailor-made solutions to enhance rail freight safety, contact Codete now.