2023 Heavy Haul Session


The implementation of technologies to promote high reliability systems in Brazil’s rail heavy haul.

Antonio Merheb

Antonio Merheb
MRS, Brazil

Few industries are bracing for more innovation and disruption than Heavy Haul rail sector. In recent years, advances in technology, manufacturing, and systems integration have helped the sector push new limits in terms of axle load and throughput efficiency. In years to come, surging demand and investment will continue to heighten the expectations surrounding these – and other sustainability - metrics. Improvements in train controls, track materials and rolling-stock components will further fuel the sector’s success story. But whilst the potential for disruption is certainly something to celebrate, many heavy haul operators are wondering what sort of future they need to prepare for.

With commodity demand and prices ever-fluctuating, heavy haul operators cannot afford to take their feet of the pedals when it comes to driving efficiency gains. With this increased pressure to raise productivity and lower costs will come a wave of new technologies.

In Brazil we are using systems for almost every efficiency objective we have. A system to measure the geometry, track stiffness, ultrasonic and fasteners. A system to measure the sleeper and ballast conditions. A system to understand where the trains are located. And importantly, a system to unite all of these tools into a single database. These have helped us quadruple our production in the last twenty years.

Whilst technologies that satisfy these objectives are already prevalent in the main HH companies around the world, it is expected that the coming years will see significant improvements in these tools. Notable advances in computer-aided train driving, track inspection systems and network communications are already on the horizon, as demand for better asset life, throughput and track integrity grows.

In MRS Logistics we are prioritizing our using of maintenance technology to increase the axle load and the speed of rolling stock. We want to better understand the integrity of ballast, sleepers and rails – the stiffness of the track and its effects for vehicle-track interaction. This will help us invest the correct amount of money, at the correct location, at the correct time. As example we reduce by three times the geometry defects and by twice the number of rail breaks in the last seven years.