Analytics – Sponsored by Bentley

A New Decade of Post-PSR Service Planning Starts Now

2019 will be remembered as the year of Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) and for the great traffic drought in North American railroading. PSR has indeed helped deliver the eye-popping levels of operating ratios (OR) that rail executives could once only dream about, and many of the Class I’s set record ORs throughout the year.

2020: Optimism—and Caution

Freight rail traffic has historically been a useful gauge of broader economic activity. The fundamentals of a strong U.S. economy were present in 2019: solid job numbers, strong consumer spending, low interest rates, economic expansion and low inflation. But despite all the bright spots, one thing remained certain last year: trade policy created uncertainty. This uncertainty affected multiple sectors of the economy.

AHSI: Big Data For Better Asset Health

The railroad industry estimates that advances in fault detection technology are preventing more than 700 road failures monthly on the North American system, based on 2019 preliminary statistics. Among the efforts to identify the causes of failure and further understand issues that affect freight rail performance and safety is the Association of American Railroads Asset Health Strategic Initiative (AHSI), data from which is shared with Railinc.

VIDEO: Pat Ottensmeyer, 2020 Railroader of the Year

The 57th annual recipient of Railway Age’s Railroader of the Year Award is Kansas City Southern President and Chief Executive Officer Patrick J. Ottensmeyer, a leader in positioning North American railroads as a critical part of the globally competitive, integrated supply chain. In this interview with Railway Age Editor-in-Chief William C. Vantuono, Ottensmeyer talks about his efforts on behalf of the North American rail industry to support mutually beneficial trade and robust economic growth to help ensure that the rail industry has a voice, working with public- and private-sector leaders to strengthen bilateral commercial ties.

2020 Dispatching, A Short Story

The following is a fictional account written in the Year 2000 predicting what train dispatching might or could have been like 20 years later. It was published as a sidebar in the Federal Railroad Administration’s “Five-Year Strategic Plan for Railroad Research, Development, and Demonstrations,” March 2002. I was, in retrospect, excessively optimistic about how train dispatching would change over two decades. Perhaps the title of the story should be changed to “2050 Dispatching”?

“Don’t Replace Your Bridge Too Soon”

There is a great deal of technology and data science that can help extend track and bridge structure life. But the railroads are not always out in front in exploiting the opportunities. Engineers can see the practical uses of bridge “micro movement” sensor technology. But at the big executive table that allocates the budget resources inside railroads, identified economic opportunities point to the need for the chief financial officer and his or her risk management staff to get directly involved in examining the identified options not seen before sensor data analytics entered the tool box. Perhaps as many of one-half of all visual inspection-based bridge capex decisions are wrong. Why? Because the visual data entered into the sophisticated engineering spreadsheet formulas isn’t accurate enough.

FRA NPRMs Address Track, Brake Inspection Requirements

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on Dec. 19 issued two Notices of Proposed Rulemakings (NPRMs), one updating current Track Safety Standards (TSS), the other updating existing Brake System Safety (BSS) requirements. FRA said the proposed rules changes are designed “to promote safety innovation and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens.” Both “will increase rail safety as well as save time.”