Freight railroad is the second most heavily utilized mode for moving goods to and from Canada and Mexico. In 2017, it was used to transport $174.1 billion worth of goods.¹ Not only is freight rail essential for the transportation of a tremendous number of goods, but freight railways also sustain more than a million jobs across the country.²
That’s a big part of why The Economist has called America’s freight railways one of the “unsung transport successes of the past thirty years and Warren Buffet believes the “country’s prosperity depends on its having an efficient and well-maintained rail system.”³
Yet freight railroads face many challenges. Aging infrastructure, higher demand, and increased regulatory pressures mean train management software must be updated to meet modern needs.
What exactly do railroads needs from such systems? Here are the features any train management software must include.
Train Management Systems: Software Features Freight Railroads Should Look For
Safety and Maintenance
Safety is a primary concern for the freight rail industry. Collisions between trains and motor vehicles are still worryingly common. In 2014, for example, there were 2,286 collisions.4 Speed limit enforcement is essential to ensure regulatory compliance. Look for speed limit enforcement as well as additional safety features, such as redundancy, to further improve your system and avoid downtime that could cause safety problems.
Asset Performance and Maintenance Tracking
Freight rail is an asset-intensive industry. Millions of dollars are invested each year into the maintaining and updating tracks, signals, trains, carriages, and platforms. Increasing asset longevity is essential if freight railroads want to continue to see a positive return on their investment, which is why train management software must also be able to track both the performance and maintenance needs of as many assets as possible. Look for rail asset management features and remote asset monitoring can also help improve freight safety by highlighting aging assets or those in poor condition.
Monitoring, Communication, and Control
Freight operators must be able to monitor, communicate and control rail assets remotely at any time. To optimize routes and decrease delays, operators need to have all the data they need about their entire network available in one place. So that when incidents occur, as they will, operators have the information they need to act quickly to minimize effects.
Traditional analytics systems that monitor schedules and transported goods are an OK start, but predictive analytics will soon become essential. Freight railroads should make the move to advanced analytics now to predict maintenance needs and weather events.
For example, predictive water event analytics can now provide up to 72 hours advance notice of a water event that could wash out tracks or otherwise endanger trains. Not only can such analytics improve safety, they can also help you optimize transportation schedules and productivity.
Customize Your Train Management System
Comprehensive train management software is a key component to keeping freight railroads safe, efficient, and profitable in the years ahead.
That doesn’t mean you’ll always find all these features – or other, system or company specific features you need – in a single piece of railroad software. Like other systems, train management software can be supplemented with add-ons such as advanced analytics, professional services, or custom integrations to form a system tailored to the specific needs of freight carriers.