According to the most recent earnings reports, North American Class I railroads are producing record-low operating ratios and posting record-setting earnings. These results strongly suggest that the current operating format of two-person train crews utilizing innovative safety and fuel conservation technologies is helping achieve these desired, value-added financial results. In short, it is possible for innovative technology and human-operated freight trains to exist in a complimentary fashion. The combination is currently working quite well.
Rio Tinto Group
Rio Tinto announced Dec. 28, 2018 that it successfully completed its $940 million AutoHaul project to automate the operation of its 1,700-km (1,054-mile) heavy-haul rail network in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, which it says is now the “world’s largest robot and first automated heavy-haul, long-distance rail network.”
Railroading entered a brave, new world as the first fully-autonomous freight train completed its initial run in Australia.
Global mining conglomerate Rio Tinto says AutoHaul®—the US$518 million automation of its Western Australia Pilbara iron ore heavy-haul rail network—is progressing well, with about 20% of all train-miles now operating in autonomous mode, albeit with on board locomotive engineers managing certain safety and reliability systems.