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Key Strategies to Building Safe and Efficient Rail Car Operations

Rail operations are increasing around the world as manufacturers and logistics operators seek more sustainable and efficient ways of moving bulk liquid from its place of manufacturing to the end users.

The loading and unloading of rail cars can present a number of safety challenges. Developing and implementing bulk fluid transfer systems in conjunction with fall prevention strategies is necessary for increasing safety, throughput and efficiency on site.

According to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), the independent safety and economic regulator for Britain's railways and monitor of Highways England, there were four workforce fatalities in 2014-15. One of the electrocution fatalities was on the non-mainline, the first recorded fatality since 2006-07. In addition, workforce major injuries on other non-mainline networks rose from 57 in 2013-14 to 65 in 2014-15. These primarily involved track and other maintenance staff.

In other countries, where rail tank wagon operations are more common such as the US, the statistics are even more shocking. In 2015, there were 16,710 cases of workplace causalities (deaths and non-fatal injuries and illnesses) at rail sites, according to the Federal Railway Administration Office of Safety Analysis. If adequate fall prevention strategies were in place, this could have prevented many of these falls. Not to mention the legal ramifications for the company running the site where an incident has occurred.

Here are four strategies that can help improve your safety and efficiency on your rail sites:

  1. Know your products

Knowledge is king and more often than not, a first step is knowing what equipment is right for your site.

What products are being loaded? How many products are being loaded on site? The type of products will determine the material and the complexity of the loading arms.

  1. Know your site and facilities

What tank rail cars are coming into your site? There are a wide range of rail tank cars of varying lengths in use around the world, with their main differences on the top of the rail cars, often with things such as crash boxes, vents and ladders that affect access to the main hatch for loading and unloading.

Is the site being developed from nothing or will there be existing equipment that has be worked around? Is it a multi-purpose site, in that both rail wagons and road tankers are being loaded and unloaded? A lot of existing rail terminals have quite old equipment as well as ancillary equipment such as piping, which can present a real challenge when the operator has asked for a ‘bolt on’.

Loadtec is able to obtain crucial information about products and facilities using detailed survey sheets, site visits and through speaking to the right people.

  1. Get the operators involved early on

One of the biggest problems Loadtec has encountered is a massive disconnect between the people who order the equipment and the people who actually use the equipment, which can be different sets of people working in the same company or sometimes, in third party companies.

When on site, Loadtec often encounter operators who are resistant to change.  They sometimes view the arrival of new and safer equipment as a step towards automation and a risk to their employment.  Others, primarily because they have not been part of the evaluation or selection process, resist or find reasons to obstruct the adoption of new technology.

It is absolutely crucial that the operators are involved from an early stage of a project if you want to ensure safety and efficiency across the site later on. Nothing encourages an operator to use a piece of equipment safe and efficiently than when they have been involved in the selection of the equipment from day one. If a project is big, appoint a team leader amongst the operator who can represent their say in the matter and involve the team leader in the selection of equipment.

  1. If all else fails, engage a trusted equipment supplier

Say you do not know a swivel joint from a coupling, how do you then ensure the site you are commissioning meets all safety standards as well as it being as efficient as it can? You engage an equipment provider who knows what they are doing, like Loadtec.

Loadtec has been in the business for 20 years. In this time, we have worked successfully globally, across a whole range of projects with different demands. The knowledge we have gained in doing this is invaluable.

Loadtec is often asked to provide ‘a standard’ when it comes to the equipment we supply. But there are no standards and that’s why Loadtec works well when compared to the big corporations out there that mass manufacture standard products

Each solution we provide is unique. We do not fit something and hope it works. Loadtec has the widest portfolio of any company in the business, all of which chosen because they represent the best in their field. Loadtec also has its own factory in Bologna, Italy, a centre of engineering excellence, where we can work with new and existing designs.

When you come to Loadtec with a problem, we provide solutions that are custom-fitted to the demands of the site. Loadtec has recently completed a project for a Middle East rail/road loading terminal which required a much higher working range than normal. Loadtec’s solution was a hybrid TCEN4 rail access system that could operate a much wider and higher range than normal, plus loading arms that could work in that range. Not many companies can claim to be able to do that. And that is what makes Loadtec special.