Advanced brake technology will enable locomotive engineers to have better train control, lower the risk of derailment and allow trains to safely travel longer distances between required brake tests, under a new federal rule announced by U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters.
“The concept is simple, better brakes allow trains to operate more safely,” said Peters, noting that the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) final rule on Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) brakes will facilitate the widespread deployment of this technology by railroads and railcar owners.
Peters explained that ECP brakes provide numerous safety and business benefits compared to conventional air brake systems that have changed little since the 1870s. ECP technology provides simultaneous and graduated application and release of brakes on all railcars within a train, resulting in shorter stopping distances, longer trains that can operate at faster speeds, improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions. It also complements other advanced rail safety technologies like Positive Train Control systems, she added.
“I believe that railroads and railcar owners will increasingly realize the benefits of ECP brake systems and will make the necessary investments,” said FRA Administrator Joseph H. Boardman, adding that while ECP brakes are not mandated, the final rule establishes the performance requirements for its use.
The final rule requires that ECP brake systems fully comply with existing industry standards and certain railroad operating rules and training programs be modified to ensure workers have the knowledge and skills required to properly utilize the systems.
The final rule is available here.