A new braking technology for the Nation’s railroads is the subject of extensive attention in the Federal Government and the railroad industry. Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) brakes are a tested and validated technology superior to conventional pneumatic brakes and can bring significant improvements to the safety and efficiency of railroad operations. Advanced braking concepts like ECP brakes were first investigated by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) in 1990. Over the past 15 years, ECP brake technology has progressed rapidly. ECP brake systems have been field tested on various railroads since 1995. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has been an active and consistent advocate of ECP brake system implementation. In 1997, FRA participated in an AAR initiative to develop ECP brake standards. In 1999, FRA funded a Failure Modes, Effects, and Criticality Analysis (FMECA) for the ECP brake systems specified in the AAR standards. FRA also took part in programs to develop and enhance advanced components for the application of ECP brake systems. During the early years of development, however, FRA did not initiate regulatory actions impacting ECP brake technology. The development and application of ECP brakes remained the sole responsibility of the brake manufacturers and the railroads. Progress towards implementation of ECP brake technology slowed and stalled due to difficulties in identifying an optimal implementation strategy to support the required investment. In 2005, FRA felt that it was time to reenergize ECP brake system interest. FRA took steps to assess industry readiness and the effectiveness of the ECP brake technology. FRA contracted with Booz Allen Hamilton, a major consulting firm, to assess current ECP brake technology and to identify cost, business and safety benefits, and implementation strategies. After a thorough analysis of ECP brake technology and a review of the results of numerous studies and initiatives, FRA concluded that the technology is mature and the time is right for implementation of ECP brake technology in the North American railroad industry. Therefore, FRA is currently proceeding with new rulemaking to support industry conversion to ECP brakes. FRA’s rulemaking activity is responsive to the railroad industry’s needs and should facilitate the introduction and widespread application of ECP brake technology. This paper discusses the safety and efficiency advantages of an industry conversion to ECP brakes as the primary method of train braking. The paper also describes the challenges associated with conversion to ECP brakes and FRA’s actions to support their implementation.

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