The US railroad industry has more than 1.5 million rail cars, 28,000 locomotives, and enough rail to wind around the earth nearly eight times. Obviously, it’s no small feat to keep this large base of assets in top performance condition. Therefore, in recognition of the need to tackle challenges related to asset health in a unified way, the Asset Health Strategic Initiative was launched in 2011. Read on for answers to your questions about this important industry initiative.
What is the Asset Health Strategic Initiative?
A multi-year and multi-phase railroad industry project, the Asset Health Strategic Initiative (AHSI) seeks to address the industry’s asset health challenges through information technology solutions. With the overall goal of implementing safety improvements and cost savings, the program aims to reduce mechanical service interruptions, improve railcar inspection quality, and boost the efficiency of rail yards and repair shops.
The AHSI was launched by the Board of Directors and the Safety and Operations Management Committee of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), together with the Railinc Project Support Working Committee. The working group of the AHSI—the Asset Health Strategy Committee—currently includes participants from all Class I railroads, Amtrak, private railcar owners, Railinc, AAR, and the Transportation Technology Center, Inc.
What is the scope of AHSI?
The program encompasses the entire health cycle of rolling stock, including prevention, detection, movement, planning, repair, and settlement. The rolling stock problems addressed by AHSI are those that require a network-level view of asset information and industry coordination; the premise of AHSI is that centrally available asset information will increase efficiency and improve safety.
How will AHSI continue recent industry efforts and investments in asset health?
The railroad industry has invested substantially in asset health over the past decade, but the broader, network-level strategic focus brought by AHSI will provide even greater returns and efficiencies. By building on both existing local system investments and industry capabilities, AHSI will enable development and progress to take place in a more comprehensive way than could be achieved by a single railroad or car owner. The existing systems that AHSI will build upon include equipment registry, component registry, car repair billing, detector alerts, and damaged and defective car tracking.
What AHSI projects are underway?
A central focus of AHSI is foundational work in architecture and design, as well as the development and testing of data sharing capabilities. Several projects are being developed under this umbrella, including:
Asset Information Repository: This database will provide comprehensive data on equipment characteristics and health, including both real-time and historical data.
E-Train: This centralized train information database allows for real-time visibility and analysis of data, which enables more effective decision-making around repair and maintenance tasks, reduces manual work, and improves efficiency.
Inspection Quality (Detector Repository): This comprehensive database of detector readings will permit more effective equipment monitoring and improve the efficiency of repairs.
Mechanical Reference Repository: This central repository is meant to provide easier access to operational reference data, both current and historical, as well as an automated means for the use of such data.
All focused on equipment, trains, and detectors, these database projects aim to drive improvements in asset health by allowing easier access to shared information via common platforms.
Will AHSI create or enhance new or existing products?
The current focus of AHSI is the development of capabilities for data centralization and sharing in order to address asset health issues. Such new capabilities may result in specific customer segments being more able to efficiently handle asset health issues, which could lead to the deployment of new products. AHSI communications will focus more on these new capabilities once initial foundational work is complete.
How are AHSI’s initial investments paid for?
The costs for designing and developing foundational AHSI initiatives are shared by Class I railroads at Railinc and within their own companies.
Will other stakeholders be involved in AHSI?
As more foundational work is completed, other stakeholder requirements related to equipment, detection, and reference data will be prioritized.
What are the benefits of AHSI?
Specific benefits that AHSI will deliver include:
The capability to use detector information to monitor and determine brake effectiveness for multiple cars. This will improve the quality of available braking information for specific equipment and support exemptions from Class 1A brake tests.
The ability to more effectively identify railcars with recurring mechanical issues through line-of-road failure data and analysis at the network level. This will allow issues to be addressed more quickly, and will ultimately reduce line-of-road failures and improve safety.
Improved and enhanced health information about individual pieces of equipment. This will enable in-depth analysis of equipment based on more comprehensive health data.