Meet the “digital rail car”: the aggregation of data regarding location, condition, and load of rail cars enables the more flexible use of transportation capacity and thus increases competitiveness. Service and maintenance can also be optimized using digital information. The availability of mobile infrastructure is thus increased – making it possible for more cargo to be transported by rail.
The innovative tank car is the result of the “Innovative Freight Wagon” research project carried out by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI). The aim of the project was to make rail freight transport quieter, more economical, and more energy efficient. A total of four different car models (in the form of a car transport wagon, BraCoil, and container car, as well as the tank car) along with 27 innovative components were developed and field tested in the VTG/DB Cargo consortium.
Measuring just 14.4 meters in length, the new, universal tank car is a full two meters shorter than its reference model. Yet in spite of its more compact size, it still offers the same load capacity of 77 m3. A shorter tank car means additional cars can be added to the block train to make transport more efficient than ever.
Its innovations at a glance:
• Larger tank diameter and new tank materials make for a shorter tank car.
• Innovative bogies with disc brake and radial wheel adjustability have a positive impact on noise, energy consumption, and wear.
• Telematics systems are in place to track the position of the car at all times and thereby maximize transparency throughout the supply chain.
• Heating and insulation facilities make it possible to transport temperature-sensitive chemical products.
• Automatic buffer lubrication reduces the manual workload when performing maintenance on the tank car.
Our Concept Car combines numerous innovations on one fascinating exhibition car. If you want to learn more, click on the hotspots!
The container carrier has been specifically tailor-made to handle combined transport requirements and has a maximum load capacity of 72 t. It is therefore suitable for carrying 20‘ tank and bulk containers as well as heavy 40’ and 45’ containers and swap bodies of up to 7.15 m in length.
At this year’s transport logistic fair, VTG is presenting an exceptionally light FreightFlexx brake disc. The long-lasting brake linings are ideal in particular for high-mileage freight cars such as intermodal cars. Rubber springs and a Relest coating keep bogies even quieter than the already low-noise disc brakes make them.
The VTG Connector is affixed to the l-beam of the wagon and is capable of transmitting various types of data. Our VTG Connect service renders this information useable. The key features we offer are tracking and tracing, shock surveillance and ambient temperature measurements.
Key data regarding the brake status is monitored and displayed electronically and transmitted via the mobile network. Three brake statuses are displayed: ‘off’, ‘ready’ and ‘on’. A wear sensor monitors the brake pads. Positions G and P are displayed along with the statuses ‘empty’, ‘loaded’ or ‘overloaded’. As a result, the wagon inspector now only has to examine the train once instead of three times. The information can also be accessed online at any time.
Lubricating the buffer heads is difficult on trains that are constantly coupled. To avoid having to uncouple wagons just to lubricate them, VTG is demonstrating self-lubricated buffers from Faiveley. Over a period of a year, a grease cartridge continually supplies the buffer head with the lubrication it needs.
The ability to share means of transport such as cars or bicycles not only maximizes flexibility, but also ensures resources can be used more efficiently. This is a concept that VTG has now adopted with its FastTrack service for rail freight transportation, which offers much-needed flexibility when transporting containers from seaports to more remote destinations throughout mainland Europe.
FastTrack is a particularly useful service during peak order times and for handling ad-hoc requirements that have traditionally called for road transport – that is, until now. Customers can access an online platform to view prices and available container cars. In just a few clicks, they can book the transport they need – even at short notice. This service allows the rail network to be incorporated into a logistics chain with significantly greater flexibility. The container shuttles have been ready for deployment in Hamburg since 2018, with plans to base further vehicles in Rotterdam going forward. “As the largest port in Europe, Rotterdam is an attractive and obvious location in which to expand our FastTrack service,” explains Marc Hunziker, Head of Sales Coordination Intermodal for VTG Rail Europe GmbH, in reference to why this second location was selected. “This tri-modal reloading point will allow us to make a valuable contribution to enhancing combined transport facilities and improving the interaction between different modes of transport.”
All container cars booked via FastTrack are equipped with the VTG Connector telematics module as a matter of course. This allows customers to track the location of their container at any time via VTG Connect. VTG FastTrack not only reduces the volume of traffic on the road and protects the environment, but also improves the connection between the specified ports and more remote destinations for a service that’s the first of its kind across Europe.
The wheel has stopped turning as it should. The harsh Swedish winter has well and truly made its mark and the wheel tread has worn down unevenly so that there is now an irregular load on the track. Under normal circumstances, this rail car and its wheelset wouldn’t be scheduled for workshop maintenance for another four and a half months, but this kind of wear and tear could lead to major damage if left for so long – and even to the breakdown of the car in the worst case scenario.
“The challenging conditions in Sweden mean that this kind of damage is only noticeable at the last possible moment, and often goes entirely undetected during visual inspections. But with the help of a smart data evaluation system, we can get the car to the workshop right when it’s needed,” explains Dr. Niko Davids, Chief Digital Officer at VTG. To bring this project to life, VTG is working in partnership with Swedish start-up eMaintenance365 to evaluate the data collected by Trafikverket – Sweden’s national infrastructure operator – using sensors placed at various measuring points on tracks throughout the country. So how does it work? If a wheel has a damaged tread, it exerts an uneven amount of pressure on the track. The level of wheel force is recorded to allow conclusions to be drawn about the condition of the wheels. This data can then be analyzed to shape plans for the future. On the basis of this information, for example, wheel sets can be replaced in good time, and the evaluation process helps to optimize operational planning in the workshops as well as the spare parts ordering process.
The benefits of this are huge, since unexpected car malfunctions lead to delays and capacity shortfalls for customers with both irritating and costly consequences. The more flexible and proactive the approach to maintaining rail freight cars, the better. For Dr. Niko Davids, the aim is clear: “In the long term, we want to be maintaining our entire fleet on a proactive basis and carrying out work when it makes sense to do so, rather than when an arbitrary period has gone by.”
A suspension spring on a tank car has broken unexpectedly, and it cannot carry on with the faulty part on the bogie. A job for Waggonwerk Brühl, a subsidiary and mobile service of VTG.
The damage occurred near Hamburg, so two employees set off from there in their fully-equipped service vehicle. “With our rolling workshops, we can react quickly and carry out minor repairs directly on site”, says Florian Steinbock, Head of Mobile Service at Waggonwerk Brühl. The mobile service cuts downtimes and minimizes transfer costs for defective wagons – and makes rail freight transportation faster, more efficient and cost-effective.
The range of services provided by mobile units includes replacing chassis components, valves and safety mechanisms. The technicians repair brakes, bogies and chassis, emptying and filling devices as well as insulation. Lettering or graffiti removal are also carried out on site. Even wheel sets and buffers can be replaced under certain circumstances.
Waggonwerk Brühl can look back on over a hundred years of history in the repair and maintenance of rail cars. Today, around 3,000 to 4,000 wagons pass through the 17,000 m2 factory halls and 14 km of track every year. In addition to the main plant in Wesseling, the locations Syke, Schwarzheide, Alstätte, Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Vacha, Eberswalde and Hamburg also offer mobile service with their own vehicle.
In fact, the staff at Waggonwerk Brühl were able to replace the suspension spring on the defective tank car in the space of two hours, making the wagon immediately operational.
VTG is a pioneer on the road to digital rail freight transport: the proof of this is the equipping of our entire wagon fleet with telematics systems and numerous individual digital solutions. In the future, we will continue to advance the railways with smart solutions.
There is enormous potential to sustainably make rail freight transportation faster, more flexible and more efficient through digitalization, and to make this method of transportation more competitive in the long run.Chief Digital Officer at VTG
The digitization of logistics processes is delivering more and more data. But employees can only use this data to facilitate their work if this information is processed effectively. VTG Fleet Table shows how this can be done by displaying the location and properties of rail cars in real time.
An employee clicks on a rail car located near Munich. An information box opens up on the touchscreen monitor. The rail car is currently vacant. That’s good news: a client in Italy needs 22 LPG rail cars with a volume of 120 cubic meters and an axel load of 90 metric tons as soon as possible. The rail car is to be rented for six months. So it has to be a rail car that is not due for inspection within the next six months. Using the VTG Fleet Table, a 55-inch (140-centimeter) touch screen, the VTG sales employees have called up the rail car in question with just a few taps on the screen.
The map of Europe shows the location of all VTG rail cars equipped with a VTG connector as well as other relevant properties. Thanks to various filters, only fleet rail cars that meet certain parameters are displayed. Employees can thus see which LPG cars meet the required criteria and are available. In this case, the fleet has 35 rail cars that meet the criteria for the request from Italy. The map displays the information clearly, making it possible to select the rail cars with the shortest delivery times. The Fleet Table allows VTG to respond more quickly to rental inquiries and thus increases the efficiency of rail freight transportation.
Retrack, VTG’s own logistics network, connects the most important European economic centers. We take all cost factors into account to offer the best possible logistics solutions for a wide variety of product groups by intelligently combining all of the options offered by the railroad system on the given freight corridor.