Five major rail industry companies—Trinity Industries, Norfolk Southern, GATX, Genesee & Wyoming and Watco Cos.—have entered into a joint venture called RailPulse that is “expected to accelerate rail modal transformation through the advancement of GPS technology and other telematics across the North American railcar fleet.”
RailPulse, the full project name of which is “Rail Pulse: The Realization of Railcar Location, Condition, Health, and Telematics Sensors on the North American Railcar Fleet,” was originally introduced in October 2020. The project is “committed to develop new standards and systems infrastructure to support the industry in meeting two key objectives,” the joint venture partners said. “The first is to provide real-time information for enhanced safety through the consistent, reliable provision of key data on railcars across the entire North American fleet to shippers, railcar owners and railroads. The second is to reinforce rail’s competitive modal share position of freight transportation through increased real-time and sustainable visibility into status, location and condition of rail equipment and commodities being transported.”
Now in its early development stage, the RailPulse platform is expected to be rolled out to North American rail shippers by year-end 2022. Its development is partially financed by a $7.9 million U.S. Department of Transportation Fiscal Year 2020 CRISI (Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements) grant awarded to PennDOT (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation). The Commonwealth, along with rail partners the joint venture partners said “collectively own 20% of the North American railcar fleet,” will provide an additional “modest” investment.
“While this coalition is in the early stages of development, we believe these efforts will be a key factor in improving the rail industry’s competitive position,” said Trinity President and CEO Jean Savage. “We’ve been leveraging artificial intelligence to develop actionable analytics and infrastructure to support the addition of telematics on railcars for nearly two years, and testing the reliability of certain analytics on our own fleet of leased railcars. We believe partnering with other leading rail service providers will accelerate widespread adoption of these technologies across the North American railcar fleet and transform rail shipping in the future.”
“In working with our customers, we have heard consistent feedback that they need greater rail network visibility in order to move more of their freight volume to the railroad,” said Trinity Chief Commercial Officer Gregg Mitchell. “This new platform will empower industry participants like Trinity to deliver real-time insights to shippers and other railcar users for better fleet, inventory and supply chain management. Ultimately, we expect these insights will provide improved satisfaction to shippers and their customers.”