On the Right Track: How Wabtec’s Trip Optimizer is Transforming Freight Train Efficiency
Imagine a world where freight trains glide effortlessly over varying terrains, respecting speed restrictions and adjusting to ever-changing operating conditions while saving fuel.
Welcome to that world made possible with Wabtec's Trip Optimizer™. It's not just a smart cruise control—it's an intelligent system tailored for trains. By precisely calculating the best speed profile, considering factors like train length and weight, grade, and composition, the Trip Optimizer suite of solutions aims to conserve fuel, improve safety, and revolutionize train travel one optimized trip at a time.
Wabtec is leading the way in the heavy haul freight space, Trip Optimizer systems already in use worldwide, with over 973 million miles traveled on 20 different railroads across five continents. Also, the Trip Optimizer has been certified by the EPA as a fuel-savings product. By investing in sustainability, Wabtec is leveraging real time physics-based algorithms with the big picture goal of positioning the Trip Optimizer to do the heavy lifting for train drivers so they can navigate more massive (often up to two miles long), complex trains. The idea is not to replace the drivers, but to make their jobs more manageable, while offering drivers opportunities to be more vigilant to safety related concerns. Trip Optimizer also streamlines driver training so that companies can onboard new recruits faster.
For Kiron Viegas, Trip Optimizer's Principal Product Manager, along with the product group and engineering team, it's about continuing to innovate, refine, and elevate the ways to manage train movement.
“When our customers start building bigger, and more complicated trains…you quickly start pushing the boundaries of physics in terms of what you can model. That’s where we’re harnessing advanced technologies to help augment our physics models and improve train handling,” says Viegas.
Beyond the Rails
While the Trip Optimizer’s innovation over the past 12 years has been steady, there’s also been a resounding impact that goes beyond the technology.
Starting with Wabtec’s VP of Product Management for Trip Optimizer, Dave Eldredge, who has been the face of the product, playing a very hands-on role from its inception up until the first system was sold in 2009, to where it stands today. Viegas recalls watching Eldredge’s dedication along his early career journey with Wabtec. “At the time we hadn’t sold our first system yet, but Dave was out there with customers, at the railroad riding trains, putting the system on locomotives and testing it out, getting feedback…so he’s grown it from there to where it is today.”
Then there are the users. For the past 15 years, all railroads have led to Melbourne, Florida, as over 100 Trip Optimizer customers make their way down to the annual LOCOTROL and Trip Optimizer’s Users Conference. For four days, attendees gather for sessions with speakers and workshops, where they share their success stories, best practices, and challenges, while Wabtec’s product team shares the Optimizer’s latest advances and progress. “It’s an amazing forum for us to bring our customers together so they can share ideas and it gives us insights into what’s important for the customer. It’s been very successful in terms of the level of collaboration and feedback we get from users,” Viegas says.
The Latest Game-Changers
Here’s a breakdown of five cutting-edge product additions that work in tandem with the Trip Optimizer (and why they matter):
Trip Optimizer SmartHPT
Picture this: You're revving up a car with way more power than you need, and as you watch, the gas gauge drops faster than you'd expect. That's what happens when trains run on excess horsepower—it guzzles fuel and pumps out more greenhouse gases. In the old days, figuring out the ideal horsepower for each train was like a challenging puzzle done manually, leading to some trains burning more fuel than their counterparts. Plus, if a train had extra locomotives chugging along, there was no easy way to put them on standby for segments where they weren’t needed. Trip Optimizer SmartHPT optimizes train performance for a given horsepower per ton target, driving incremental fuel savings.
Trip Optimizer Zero to Zero and Air Brake Control
Zero to Zero reduces the “gap” between trip miles and auto miles and when set to Auto Mode, it saves every possible ounce of fuel. But here's the catch: its aiming for a “Zero to Zero” experience—maximizing the miles driven automatically. How? By smartly integrating starting and stopping features, ensuring that the system stays in Auto even applying air brakes for speed control, and cleverly keeping it in Auto during approach signals. It’s not just automation; it’s the future of efficient rail travel.
Trip Optimizer with LOCOTROL Distributed Power
LOCOTROL XA Distributed Power, Wabtec’s latest LOCOTROL platform, was designed to minimize energy waste and dramatically slash fuel use by allowing railroads to spread locomotives across the train. This next-gen platform supercharges train communication, integrates vital systems, and maximizes efficiency. Trip Optimizer automatically integrates with LOCOTROL XA to control the train asynchronously, applying power in the lead or remotely located locomotives, to control the train most efficiently. The result? Massive fuel savings, less manpower, and one powerful train doing the job of many.
Trip Optimizer with Positive Train Control Interface
Gear up for a rail revolution when Trip Optimizer meets Positive Train Control (PTC). Adapting on-the-fly to rail surprises and adhering to the changing speed restrictions, they ensure our trains sail smoothly in Auto mode for longer. The result? Fuel savings and efficiency with a fast track to a smarter rail experience.
Trip Optimizer with Pacing
When Trip Optimizer meets Movement Planner, you get Pacing. This genius duo replans as needed to focus on the best meet timings on the line. And the railroads using this pacing strategy don’t just save on fuel – they nail punctuality with speed. It's not just about less fuel burn; it's the secret recipe for on-the-dot arrivals and a masterclass in speed and efficiency for every train.
Trains of Thought│Wabtec Corporation
Wabtec continues to push boundaries with the Trip Optimizer, amplifying its operational scope and boosting fuel efficiency. “The product is not static—we keep developing innovations,” says Viegas. “In the 12 years that this product has been around, we’ve gone from a very bare bones system to a comprehensive suite of offerings for energy management. And we’re not done. We keep coming up with new improvements for the product. That’s what continues to make us successful.”