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10/16/2008



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

FRA issues final rule on ECP brakes


A federal rule on electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes now is written in stone. Yesterday, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced it issued a final rule on the brakes, which will lower the risk of derailments and provide locomotive engineers better control of trains, the agency said
 
ECP systems are designed to simultaneously and gradually apply and release brakes on all rail cars within a train. The technology results in shorter stopping distances, longer trains that can operate at faster speeds, improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions, the FRA said.

The final rule doesn’t mandate that railroads employ ECP brakes, but establishes performance requirements for the technology. The rule permits trains to travel up to 3,500 miles without stopping periodically for certain routine brake inspections — more than double the current federal limit — because ECP brake systems perform electronic self-diagnostic checks that show when maintenance is required.

The final rule also requires that ECP brake systems fully comply with existing industry standards, and that certain railroad operating rules and training programs be modified to ensure workers have the proper knowledge and skills.
     
“I believe that railroads and rail-car owners will increasingly realize the benefits of ECP brake systems and will make the necessary investments,” said FRA Administrator Joseph Boardman in a prepared statement.

Under FRA-approved waivers, Norfolk Southern Railway and BNSF Railway Co. already are operating several ECP-equipped coal trains. Union Pacific Railroad plans to begin operating ECP-equipped intermodal container trains later this fall.


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