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Where Can I Learn About RFID Tracking for Train Wagons?

Posted By RFID Journal, 03.12.2014

Has RFID Journal written about this topic?

—Name withheld


We have published several articles over the years about railway operators using radio frequency identification technology to track railcars and other assets. The benefits of tracking railcars include knowing where they are and what direction they are traveling, as well as better managing rail yards and providing preventive maintenance, thereby reducing delays and disruptions. Here are some of the stories we've published:

VR Transpoint employs a passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID system from Vilant. EPC Gen 2 tags were attached to VR Transpoint's railcar fleet to track work processes within its rail yard. Liikennevirasto (the Finnish Transport Agency) also installed the Vilant system, to improve the safety and efficiency of trains running throughout Finland. Each tag's unique ID number is associated with the corresponding railcar, and is then linked to information related to that car's axles and wheels, as well as the electrical contacts on a pantograph—the extendable arm that a train utilizes to connect with overhead power lines (see Finnish Railroad Streamlines Operations and Finnish Transport Agency to Track Railcar Health Via RFID).

Trafikverket (the Swedish Transport Administration) oversees Sweden's state-owned 13,000-kilometer (8,077-mile) network of trains and track. It uses RFID to monitor the conditions of railcars and wagons, in order to avoid costly breakdowns. Before introducing RFID, Trafikverket operated 150 detector stations to monitor wheel damage and other problems on railway vehicles (or wagons), but the system could only issue a general alarm and could not identify individual vehicles. In the event that a problem was detected, the train would have to stop at the next station, so the driver could visually check and touch the wheels to ascertain if any were hot. The government agency knew that preventative maintenance was key to providing uninterrupted service and controlling costs, so it developed an RFID solution to monitor the conditions of wheels, axles and other equipment (see Swedish Transport Gets on Track With RFID).

Swedish Steel uses RFID to monitor shipments of its steel slabs. The steelmaker mounted active RFID tags to some 400 railcars used to transport the slabs from its facility in Luleå to another in Borlänge, about 900 kilometers (359 miles) away, and also from a plant in Oxelösund. The system helps the company to ensure that the correct cars are being loaded with the proper materials, and to identify the cars' locations. Swedish Steel used custom-designed active RFID tags and readers from Adage Solutions. Some 400 freight cars were fitted with two tags apiece—one on the front right side, the other on the back left—so that an interrogator can read each car's tag regardless of the direction in which it is traveling. Every tag is encoded with its own unique ID number, as well as the wagon number of the freight car to which it is attached (see Swedish Steelmaker Using Active RFID to Monitors Railcars).

Thousands of rail cars in South Africa are equipped with passive UHF RFID tags, allowing them to be more effectively tracked, maintained and inventoried. Spoornet, a South African provider of rail-freight services now known as Transnet Freight Rail, equipped its fleet of 80,000 freight railcars with RFID tags and installed interrogators at various locations along its 14,400-mile network of train routes. This network is served by 18,800 miles of track. Spoornet worked with TransCore, a provider of RFID and satellite-communications technology for the transportation industry, and systems integrator ANSYS Integrated Systems (see South African Railroad Switches to Passive RFID).

Dow Chemical utilizes an RF-based automatic-identification system to monitor the real-time status and location of its fleet of tank railcars that it uses to transport chemicals posing a toxic inhalation hazard (TIH). The system employs Salco Products' EverSee2 transponders, which combine sensors, a two-way satellite communications modem and GPS positioning. Information transmitted by the device is sent to Savi Technology's SmartChain Asset Management platform and software, enabling the chemical company to receive regular updates regarding the railcars' locations and alerts in the event that something goes wrong. Dow can also share that data with any necessary agencies. In 2005, Dow installed a Savi tracking system for TIH cylinders with a backbone software application that allows them to be tracked by means of bar-coded labels and Savi 433 MHz active tags throughout the supply chain (see Dow Reveals a Chemical Attraction to RFID and Dow Monitors Hazardous Rail Shipments in Real Time).

Hamburger Hochbahn, the operator of Hamburg's commuter rail system, employs RFID to identify rail cars and the direction they are moving. The company extended its RFID system as it added two stations and 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) of track to its existing 100-kilometer (62-mile) light-rail network. Hochbahn, which serves roughly 500,000 commuters daily, was outfitted with nine GEN4HD Track Readers made by Tagmaster, a Stockholm-based RFID firm specializing in the railways sector. Funkwerk Information Technologies, a systems integrator based in Kiel, Germany, designed, selected and built the system (see Hamburg's Rail Operator Continues to Roll Out RFID).

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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