OYSTER BAY, NEW YORK - Rail freight transport technology adoption is beginning to evolve just as commercial trucking did over the last five to ten years.  ABI Research, a market-foresight advisory firm providing strategic guidance on the most compelling transformative technologies, finds that the Positive Train Control (PTC) regulation set for December 2018 in the United States and the European Train Control System regulation will be a tipping point for additive technology adoption. The purpose of the new regulation is to offer safety benefits in a similar way to the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate for commercial trucking a year earlier.

“Relatively nascent technologies developing for freight include: alt fuel/energy efficient locomotives and wagons, train control systems, video surveillance, predictive maintenance, intelligent rail infrastructure and operations, Freight Information Systems (FIS), and safety systems,” states Susan Beardslee, Senior Analyst at ABI Research. “Companies like Commtrex, Railnova, Cylus and Activu are addressing industry pain points with asset marketplaces, predictive maintenance, cybersecurity, and visualization which may increase freight’s current 16% share of total transport revenues.” 

Tier-One Bosch is working with SBB Cargo on Asset Monitoring for Railway Applications (AMRA). Alstom is bringing rail autonomy to the Netherlands this year, with an approximate 62-mile test track. BNSF (owned by Berkshire Hathaway) recently became the first rail company to join the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA).  The Thales Group’s CyberRail solution was designed to protect critical data infrastructures such as operation control centers. 4G growth is expected to top 3 million connections in rail by 2021, the same year that 5G is expected to see initial adoption.

The next stage of intermodal “intelligence” adoption is poised to be rail.  “Rail networks must reinvent themselves from centuries-old commodities transport into real-time, interoperable, and dynamic systems that are invaluable to a 21st Century supply chain.  This can be accomplished through an integrated transportation ecosystem, greater resource utilization, and the creation of new value-added services,” concludes Beardslee.    

These findings are from ABI Research’s  Rail Freight Digitization and Innovation  report. This report is part of the company’s ​Intelligent Transportation & eFreight research service, which includes research, data, and Executive Foresights.