The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in the US has approved a regulation that will enable the railroad companies to use new ultrasonic technology for track inspections.
The agency has submitted the final rule to the Federal Register. The rule will become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
US Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said: “This rule will allow railroads to use the latest technology to continually monitor safety, which is a big step forward in strengthening safety and reliability on our nation’s railroads.”
The new ultrasonic inspection technology, with global positioning system (GPS), is developed to conduct continuous rail testing and identify potential flaws before their further deterioration.
The rail cars will be equipped with ultrasonic and GPS technologies to enable track monitoring without stopping. The vehicles, while running on the track, will procure detailed imaging and location data, which will be transmitted to monitoring sites for assessment.
If an internal rail defect is suspected, the companies can dispatch teams for verification. The FRA regulations require the railroad company to apply for proper remedial action, when the fault is confirmed.
The existing methods allow companies to test around 20 miles of track per day where ultrasonic rail test vehicles repeatedly stop for manual inspections.
This often requires other trains in the vicinity to operate at slower speeds delaying passenger and freight traffic movement.
With the new technology, the railroad companies will be able to test 80 to 160 miles of track every day minimising potential delays in service.
According to FRA, one continuous rail car will replace three to five stop-and-verify test cars and will help the industry to save $121.9m in ten years.
In June, FRA launched a notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) for grant funds worth $291.4m.