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
Wabtec: Harnessing the Power of Digital Solutions

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
  • Weather

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.

Wabtec: The Path to Fuel Optimization & Automation
A Three step Approach

The Path to Fuel Optimization & Automation

Digital technology is the enabler to solving these challenges and unlocking the full potential of efficient and sustainable freight rail. Through data, physics, algorithms, and machine learning, Wabtec can make locomotives smarter, trains more efficient, and networks more fluid.

To help railroads realize the benefits of fuel optimization through digital solutions, Wabtec developed a framework that enables a phased approach with sequential steps. Each phase chronologically aligns to factors that impact fuel utilization with clear tactical goals.  A key advantage is that railroads can jump in at any step and drive immediate incremental improvements, minimizing risk and ensuring return on investment. Ultimately, railroads can use this framework to map out a strategy to achieve the highest levels of fuel optimization and automation.

Trip Optimizer: Foundation of Fuel Optimization
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.

Wabtec: The Path to Fuel Optimization & Automation

Figure 4: Path to Fuel Optimization & Automation


About the Authors:

Dave Eldredge - Wabtec Corporation

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 - Wabtec Corporation

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.

Joe Nazareth - Wabtec Corporation

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.

Bill Schoonmaker - Wabtec Corporation

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 - Wabtec Corporation

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.

Contact Us

Wabtec Digital Intelligence

Questa domanda è un test per verificare che tu sia un visitatore umano e per impedire inserimenti di spam automatici.