April 2019 • The latest from the Pacific Northwest
Using artificial intelligence to create a safer railroad
BNSF’s safety goal of an accident and injury-free workplace is becoming more possible—with the help of artificial intelligence (AI).
BNSF is utilizing AI technology to detect wheel defects, in which algorithms sort through more than 35 million readings a day to identify potential issues that could lead to derailment and other issues on our tracks. It helps maintenance crews identify the urgency of repairs and spot trends that indicate when maintenance should happen.
A newer use of AI that BNSF is using is our Machine Vision System (MVS)— technology that combines images of equipment with sophisticated data analysis to identify defects before they lead to larger problems, such as an equipment failure or derailment. MVS helps us keep an eye on the tracks at all times.
BNSF’s first-generation MVS technology was added to our network starting in 2006. Our network now includes more than 70 systems at 15 locations, targeting a variety of car components and defects.
Seven Machine Vision detectors have been implemented across the network in the past five months. These systems have been installed at high-volume, high-density locations along our main lines. About 250 trains pass the detectors daily, and each train produces about 3,000 images of wheels—750,000 images daily. Photos of potential defects are then manually reviewed by our crews.
The seven detectors have found more than 20 broken or cracked wheels over the past five months, meaning that the technology has helped BNSF prevent 20 potential derailments. Find out more about BNSF’s use of AI: bit.ly/2JGOZ6W.
Protecting our environment through energy-efficiency
At BNSF, we strive to minimize our impact on the planet and to contribute to the long-term sustainability of every community we serve. Railroads are the most environmentally preferred mode of surface transportation and cutting carbon emissions is a priority as we move our customers’ freight via rail.
Overall, our customers reduced their total carbon emissions by 37.5 million metric tons in 2017 by choosing not to move freight entirely over the road. Reducing road congestion plays a large part in this; one BNSF intermodal train removes up to several hundred long-haul trucks from our nation’s highways.
BNSF’s sustainability efforts aren’t limited to reducing road congestion—we’ve also deployed several carbon-cutting technologies on our locomotives. Examples include idle control, which automatically shuts down locomotives idling on the rails, and GenSet switch locomotives, an ultra-low emission, EPA-certified diesel switch locomotive with engines that only operate when needed.
Carbon-cutting technologies are also being applied to loading equipment, such as electric wide-span cranes. These cranes produce zero emissions on site while generating power each time they lower a load and remove as many as six diesel trucks for shuttling containers within the intermodal facility. Learn more about BNSF and the environment: bnsf.com/in-the-community/environment/index.html.
Railroad safety is for everyone
Walking along railroad tracks is dangerous and can lead to serious injury or even death. While the number one priority, safety isn’t the only consideration – walking or playing on railroad tracks is trespassing on private property and can lead to a hefty fine, or even arrest. The strict rules are in the public’s best interest, as trains don’t follow a set schedule and can travel across the tracks at any given time. Remember: the only safe place to cross is at a designated public crossing with either a crossbuck, flashing red lights or a gate. Learn more about rail safety education at oli.org/.
Giving back to our communities
The BNSF Railway Foundation continues to support the communities across the 28 states through which BNSF operates, and where BNSF employees live, work and volunteer. Recent contributions include:
Helping rebuild communities and honoring the past
Sandpoint, Idaho’s downtown area unfortunately lost a piece of history when a fire destroyed several historic buildings in February. The BNSF Railway Foundation supported Sandpoint in the recovery process, donating $7,500 to the city in a beautification effort to give the destroyed buildings an aesthetic upgrade. The funds went toward vinyl panels fitted onto the chain link fence surrounding the wreckage.
Honoring Yakama Nation heritage on the court
At a recent Yakima SunKings game at the SunDome, the home team wore special white jerseys with orange shorts with the “BNSF Railway” logo across the upper back. The exclusive jerseys were given to the team on behalf of a partnership between BNSF and the Yakama Nation for “Native American Night,” where native drummers and dancers performed at halftime. Several members of the tribal council, general council and other members of the Yakama Nation were in attendance, including the Yakama Warriors, who presented the colors for the national anthem. Learn more about the SunKings: sunkingsbasketball.com.
Fostering safe communities
Clark County’s Sheriff Auxiliary program, formerly Neighbors on Watch, is a volunteer program that utilizes community members in law enforcement endeavors—whether in department training, canvasing neighborhoods to post flyers for a Cold Case investigation, washing dishes or helping with traffic control at an event. Funds from the BNSF Foundation supported a training academy to enlist new recruits for the program, which volunteered more than 2,600 hours in 2018. Learn more at clark.wa.gov/sheriff/sheriff-auxiliary.
Celebrating bilingual literature, youth
The Gresham Library, east of Portland, is throwing local children a party with games, free books, bilingual literature and a cultural performance by an Aztec dance group. Called Dia de los Niños y Día de los Libros, the celebration emphasizes the importance of literacy for children from all backgrounds. The BNSF Railway Foundation donated grant monies to the Gresham Library to help fund the party, which was held Saturday, April 13. Learn more about the Gresham Library: https://multcolib.org/library-location/gresham.
Emergencies – Call 800-832-5452
To report a vehicle stalled on a crossing, suspicious circumstances, malfunctioning crossing gates and lights, or any other emergency, call 800-832-5452 immediately.
Have a Question for Us?
Do you have a question about BNSF or rail in the Pacific Northwest that you would like addressed in future issues of Inside Track? Send them to [email protected].