FRA supports new braking technology

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced in August its intention to propose revised federal rail safety regulations to facilitate the installation of Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) brake systems capable of preventing derailments and shortening train stopping distances.

"This technology has the potential to greatly improve the safety of our members," BLET National President Don M. Hahs. "However, we need to ensure that the industry does not use its implementation as a pretense for eliminating the jobs of shop craft workers."

ECP brakes are applied uniformly and virtually instantaneously on every rail car throughout the train, rather than sequentially from one rail car to the next as is done with current air brake technology. The system provides improved train control when braking and can reduce stopping distances up to 60 percent.

"ECP brakes are to trains what anti-lock brakes are to automobiles-they provide better control," said FRA Administrator Joseph Boardman in a prepared statement. "It offers a quantum improvement in rail safety."

Boardman said the FRA intends to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking in 2007 to revise the federal brake system safety standards to encourage railroads to invest in and deploy ECP brake technology.

According to FRA statistics, 14 percent of train accidents on main line track involved improper handling of the train or the automatic braking system in 2005. ECP brakes would give engineers better control over their trains and prevent many potential accidents.

In addition, current problems such as derailments caused by sudden emergency brake applications, and runaway trains caused by loss of brake air pressure, could be eliminated using ECP brakes. The technology can perform an electronic health check of the brakes to identify maintenance needs.



© 2006 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen