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Rail Transport Management: How to Reduce the Impact of Weather-Related Incidents

The 140,000-mile private freight railroad is the backbone of America. Entire industries rely on freight railway to ship cargo long distances over a wide geographic region. Often, that means freight trains run along tracks that are in the path of adverse weather conditions such as hurricanes, floods, and snowstorms.

Those weather events often cause water-related problems. High flood waters can cause derailments, while storms can cause infrastructure damage, taking out tracks that delay shipments or cause safety problems for railway staff. Rail transport management professionals deal with these issues regularly, working to reduce the impact of water and weather-related events.

Fortunately, technology is making that easier. Here are four ways you can reduce the impact of weather events on your railroad.

4 Ways Rail Transport Management Professionals Can Reduce the Weather Impacts

1. Plan in Advance with Reserve Inventory

Weather-related incidents are a case of when, not if. Between 1995 and 2005, 861 weather-related incidents were recorded on America’s railways.¹ That’s 86 incidents per year, all many of which cause significant and expensive damage.

Management teams should always be planning ahead for the next issue. One way to lessen the impact of these incidents is to keep reserves of key pieces of equipment and other supplies. That way maintenance staff doesn’t have to wait for parts to get delivered before starting repair work, helping you deal with issues and get back on track quickly.

2. Upgrade Monitoring Equipment

Because of the huge impact weather can have on the rail network, your staff probably already monitors the local and national weather situation consistently. But forecasts can be unreliable and don’t always tell the whole story. That’s why managers should consider upgrading to an IoT-based analytics platform that combines current forecasts with historical analysis to provide more accurate information.

In many platforms, AI technology like machine learning processes the additional data, providing more accurate predictions on when and where weather events will strike and how serious those incidents will be. Your railway staff can then make better decisions based on that information.

3. Take Proactive Measures

If you’re implementing IoT-based analysis to monitor the weather, you can start using that data to take proactive steps to improve your infrastructure and make it less susceptible to future weather incidents.

For some, that will be optimizing schedules and routes to take into account upcoming weather events, even if you don’t yet know the severity. The best analytics platforms will help you forecast that. For others, it will be carrying out proactive maintenance work on sections of their track to protect the weakest sections.

4. Update Your Contingency Plan

Once you have IoT data and analytics, the next step is to update your contingency plans based on the new information you’re gathering.

Updating your plan may include reviewing procedures in areas that your data shows are more at risk of weather issues than others. It can also include improving client communication so everyone knows what’s happening when adverse weather strikes. It can even include going back to the first point in this list and identifying the right equipment to stockpile.

Incorporate New Technology into Railroad Software

Over one billion tons of cargo are moved every year by rail in the U.S.² Experiencing even minor delays can have a dramatic effect on entire industries. That’s why it’s so important that rail transportation management professionals improve the way they monitor the weather and manage their infrastructure using railroad software along with tried-and-true tactics.

Proven tactics, like keeping equipment in reserve and ensuring you have a contingency plan, are still effective. But you should also take advantage of new technology whenever possible. IoT devices and advanced analytics can not only improve monitoring, they can forecast weather events and predict problems. That’s the information you need to ensure you’re effective in minimizing weather-related problems for your railway.


References

¹ https://ams.confex.com/ams/pdfpapers/118791.pdf
² http://energyskeptic.com/2014/statistics-road-rail-water-transportation/

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