Amtrak OIG identifies opportunities to reduce locomotive idling


Written by

Caroline Worrelleditor-in-chief

According to a report released Oct. 18 by the Amtrak Office of Inspector General (OIG), Amtrak “has the ability to use its own data to reduce excessive locomotive idling and to train employees for its goals. sustainable development”, which will help the railway achieve its objectives of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increasing the purchase of decarbonized and renewable electricity.

According to the report, Amtrak set a target to reduce GHG emissions to 40% below its 2010 baseline by 2030. To help achieve this goal, the railroad has set targets to purchase electricity 100 % carbon-free by 2030 and purchasing 100% renewable electricity by 2035. To achieve these objective goals, Amtrak has undertaken several initiatives, including purchasing more efficient electric locomotives for the Northeast Corridor ( NEC) and more fuel-efficient diesel locomotives for nationwide use. It has also opted for more energy-efficient LED lighting in its facilities and stations. Additionally, the company has developed a plan to increase its purchases of carbon-free electricity to meet the 2030 target. And in July, Amtrak released its FY21 Sustainability Report highlighting plans across its regions and operations, as well as measured progress against its annual and long-term goals.

The BIG found, however, that Amtrak “could take additional steps to more easily achieve these goals, including leveraging the data it already collects to further reduce excessive idling of its diesel locomotives and mandating training on sustainability goals for management personnel”. According to the report, although the company reduced excessive idling – idling for more than an hour – by 21% from October 2016 to March 2022, further efforts “would not only reduce emissions, but would also reduce fuel costs and wear and tear on locomotives. .”

According to the report, since 2016, Amtrak has tracked and reported excessive idling monthly. The company has installed automatic engine stop/start technology in its locomotives that will stop a locomotive after two hours of idling, unless other conditions, such as temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit or the need to maintaining air pressure in the brake lines, does not require continuous idling.

An OIG analysis of excessive idling in Chicago, Amtrak’s largest locomotive maintenance facility, found more than 500 incidents in June 2021 when a locomotive stopped after two or more hours of idling and restarted less than 30 minutes later, sometimes repeatedly.

According to the report, consecutive instances of excessive idling when factors such as air temperature are not in play may indicate a mechanical problem or a maintenance error. For example, a leaking air hose can trigger a locomotive to restart if its on-board system detects low air pressure. Since there is no mechanism to alert maintenance personnel to these issues, such as a text alert, personnel are not able to easily identify locomotive restarts resulting from malfunctions or maintenance errors, according to the report.

The OIG also found that Amtrak is not currently using the data it has to better track when idling locomotives are powering passenger cars (head power) and when they are not (head power). cut off). Given that a locomotive uses approximately 30 gallons of diesel per hour when the head power is on versus four gallons of diesel when the head power is off, the company “could use this data to more accurately estimate the cost idling and better target its reduction efforts,” the report states.

To help address the report’s findings, the OIG made the following three recommendations to Amtrak:

  • Further analyze the data it already collects and collect additional data to identify opportunities to reduce excessive idling. This could include analyzing trend data on excessive idling over time, by location and by locomotive.
  • Using these analyses, establish and implement a process to regularly target and reduce excessive idling company-wide. This could include the development of a real-time alert for the appropriate mechanical personnel that would allow them to make the necessary repairs to avoid excessive idling.
  • Mandate sustainability awareness and core capability training for management employees.

Commenting on a draft of this report, Amtrak officials accepted the OIG’s recommendations and identified actions they plan to take by September 2023 to address them.



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