Railroad leaders share data, experience on LEADER®

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

Officials from BNSF, Canadian Pacific, Ferromex, Florida East Coast, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, and mining conglomerates ArcelorMittal and Vale S.A. met in Dallas at the New York Air Brake Train Dynamic Systems (TDS) Division LEADER® Users Conference Oct. 21-23 to discuss their experiences with LEADER® (Locomotive Engineer Assist/Display and Event Recorder), NYAB’s freight train management system, which is designed to improve train handling and yield significant fuel savings.

The conference covered train handling, fuel savings, and future developments for this technology:

• BNSF AVP and Chief Mechanical Officer Steve Harris facilitated a workshop on train handling. Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, and BNSF all reported that their data showed increases in fuel savings when in-train forces were minimized. “BNSF is optimistic with these technologies, and in LEADER’s ability to provide and control Distributed Power, particularly asynchronous Distributed Power, which provides a wealth of opportunities to minimize in-train forces,” said Harris.

• NS Senior Director Operations and Locomotive Control Coleman Lawrence headed a workshop on fuel. Railroads reported fuel savings of 3% to 15% depending on train make-up, track profile, and speed. At NS, LEADER is installed on 1,500 locomotives (approximately two thirds of the road fleet) and will eventually be deployed on all road locomotives. “With average fuel savings in the mid-single digits and an annual fuel burn approaching 500 million gallons, 5% saves NS 25 million gallons of diesel fuel,” Lawrence reported. “At today’s prices, that is nearly $75 million a year.”

• Railroads representatives said they are enthusiastic about the launch of LEADER-AutoControl™, a feature that NYAB says “automatically controls throttle and dynamic brake and further improves fuel efficiency. And, LEADER-AC™ is an important first step in providing the real time input needed to maximize rail network efficiency.”

• UP AVP Transportation Systems Jeff Young facilitated a concluding workshop that looked at the future of train control technology. LEADER Product Manager Sammy Akif outlined new technology rollouts that will occur in 2014. Among them are LEADER AutoPilot™ with full train control capability, including automatic air brakes. “This will move the locomotive engineer’s focus away from manual control settings inside the cab to conditions ahead of the train outside the cab, enhancing both the efficiency and safety of train movement,” said Akif.

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