The Path to Fuel Optimization in Freight Rail
Harnessing the Power of Digital Solutions
by David Eldredge, Adam Franco, Joseph Nazareth, William Schoonmaker, and Kiron Viegas
Fuel is a major factor in railroad operations, comprising, on average, 15-20% of operating expenses and 90% of greenhouse gas emissions. So, when railroads consume less fuel, it’s a win-win for the railroad and the environment: lower operating costs and reduced carbon emissions.
Today, rail is the most energy-efficient and cost-effective mode to move freight. Efficiencies have been growing across the industry for decades. In 1980, U.S. Class 1 trains, on average, moved a ton of freight 235 miles per gallon of fuel. Today, that distance has more than doubled to 489 miles on a single gallon1.
So, what is next? How do railroads take fuel optimization to the next level? How can every train be the most efficient? The answer lies in the factors that impact fuel utilization.
Impacts to Fuel
Every mission has a host of variables that impact fuel efficiency:
- Track grade and curvature
- Driver-to-driver variation
- Speed restrictions and signal conditions
- Excessive horsepower
- Aggressive braking
- Maintenance of way
- Meets and passes
And all of this is against the backdrop of a constantly changing environment. The challenge in delivering next-level sustainability outcomes is not only in managing the variables that impact fuel use, but doing so consistently and at scale.
Bringing It All Together
Wabtec’s Path to Fuel Optimization and Automation shows the framework for realizing maximum fuel efficiency through digital solutions. Built on a modular system architecture, it allows for phased integration of enhanced train control and automation solutions. This allows customers the ability to incrementally scale fuel savings to best meet their operational and sustainability environmental goals. (Figure 4)
Whether you’re just getting started or seeking additional efficiencies, Wabtec has an unparalleled portfolio of digital products that deliver fuel efficiency outcomes that matter.
Figure 4: Path to Fuel Optimization & Automation
About the Authors:
Dave Eldredge is the Product Line Leader at Wabtec for Trip Optimizer. He is responsible for development and commercialization of industry-leading energy management solutions. Dave has over 17 years of experience in Digital Electronics.
Adam Franco is the Senior Digital Product Manager for LOCOTROL, Distributed Power and Remote Control at Wabtec. He is currently focused on delivering higher level of operational efficiency and fuel efficiency through remote control and drone control.
Joseph Nazareth is the LOCOTROL Product Line Leader at Wabtec. Joe is passionate about developing remote control solutions that improve the productivity and efficiency of freight train operations and has over 20 years of experience in doing so.
William Schoonmaker is Product Manager at Wabtec. William has over 25 years of experience developing and implementing products for the control of freight trains including over 10 years working on Trip Optimizer.
Kiron Viegas is a Product Manager at Wabtec. Kiron has spent over 25 years in engineering and product management roles in the technology industry and is passionate about solving sustainability and automation challenges in freight rail operations.
1: 2020 Surface Transportation Board R1 report