Digital tool ensures safety for pocket wagons with semi-trailers

VTG and Nexxiot are testing a kingpin monitor for semi-trailers on pocket wagons. The safety solution comprises a sensor application that will enable checking semi-trailers during the loading procedure on railcars. Additionally, it will allow constant monitoring of their condition while travelling.

Currently, the concept is tested on 70 double pocket wagons belonging to VTG’s fleet. Since pocket wagons can prove sensitive to unfavourable conditions such as strong winds or steep routes, the companies test the safety solution under very harsh industrial conditions to ensure its functionality. If the tests prove successful, VTG will deploy the sensor in all its double pocket wagons starting from November 2021.

Reliable checks

In practice, the kingpin sensor checks whether kingpin locks are attached correctly and if their hitch status is open or locked. The sensor has two displays, and each one sticks on either side of the pocket wagon. Apart from safety confirmation during the pre-trip checks, the sensors will also apply automated checks at any point of the journey. In case of a safety incident, data collected from the sensors can be used for the investigations.

Moreover, the safety sensor will be handy in terms of assisting workers during loading processes. With a LED light on its control module, it can help loading staff confirm that the pin is in the proper position, while another LED light indicates the correct attachment of the locking latch. In this way, the staff will not need to rely on acoustic signals to see if the pin is inserted correctly into the support frame.

Pocket wagon safety more relevant than ever

One of the biggest disturbances for intermodal transport this year took place in Denmark. After a safety incident when a pocket wagon’s kingpin got unstable due to strong winds on the Great Belt Bridge, semi-trailers on pocket wagons were banned from moving through the country for almost six months. The ban’s impact on intermodal companies was devastating, and the measures to resume pocket wagon traffic became stricter than before.

Understandably, testing technologies that could prevent similar situations from happening in the future can be valuable for intermodal transportation. Ensuring good checking before the trips and continuous monitoring en route can prevent jeopardising the safety and the viability of a whole sector.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is editor of, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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