GATX Rail equips pocket wagon fleet with new kingpin safety solution

Image: GATX Rail Europe

GATX Rail Europe has  introduced a new kingpin sensor, which assures the correct closing of a container. “This is a response to the European Railway Agency’s (ERA) most recent call on wagon keepers for greater rail safety measures beyond visual kingpin checks on freight railcars,” said the company.

The manufacturer has released a series of T3000e railcars equipped with the new kingpin sensors. It introduced a two-contact sensor system that will be used in all new railcars, while the old ones will undergo retrofitting to meet the safety requirements.

The kingpin

GATX’s kingpin safety solution provides a two-contact sensor system that verifies whether a hitch device is correctly locked and the kingpin appropriately positioned. Information about proper loading is displayed on both sides of the railcars and virtually on any mobile device via Bluetooth.

“Already equipped with GPS sensors, a T3000e may carry two trailers simultaneously, thus exhibiting two hitches. Each hitch has a socket equipped with ATEX-certified sensors. The sensor‘s readings are transferred to the hub-like GPS, allowing our clients to remain conveniently connected via Bluetooth. The solution can easily adjust or extend to individual needs and integrate with customer IT systems using standard interface ITSS,” explained Hubert Gołębiewski, IT manager for digitalisation and innovation at GATX Rail Europe.

Security indications. Image: © GATX Rail Europe.

ERA’s safety requirements

Kingpin safety is inseparable from trailer and semi-trailer transport by rail. ERA and the Joint Network Secretariat (JNS) continuously tighten their security requirements to avoid incidents that jeopardise human safety and the supply chain. In fact, there is a good reason behind constant safety rules updates, and this is experience.

One cannot easily forget what happened at the Great Belt Bridge two years ago (late January 2021) in Denmark. Back then, a semi-trailer-carrying train crossing the bridge got involved in a safety incident. Specifically, one of the train’s semi-trailer kingpins was not locked onto the saddle of one of the pocket wagons. As a result of strong winds, the semi-trailer shifted position and protruded beyond the side of the freight wagon forcing the train to stop.

Semi-trailer ban

The incident resulted in a several-month-long ban on semi-trailer transport by rail in Denmark, paralysing intermodal freight flows between Northern Europe and Scandinavia and causing immense financial losses to companies active there. However, the out-of-place semi-trailer was not the only reason for the ban. Two years before that, a tragic accident on the same bridge, including the same type of equipment, resulted in eight fatalities.

These developments forced the Danish Civil Aviation and Railway Authority, ERA and JNS to reassess safety regulations before resuming semi-trailer transport in the country, However, drawing from those incidents, ERA and JNS also looked into updating safety rules in Europe generally. Safety intensification was and remains challenging since it requires harmonisation on a pan-European level. Several companies came up with digital solutions after the Danish incident, and GATX Rail Europe is now also entering the game in what appears to be one of the most crucial investment fields regarding rolling stock and equipment.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

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

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