In the railroad industry, monitoring the condition of freight railcar bearings in-service is carried out through two primary systems: wayside hot bearing detectors (HBDs) and trackside acoustic detection systems (TADS). However, these systems face challenges in accurately assessing bearing fatigue and distress, especially during the initial stages of defect development. To address this, the University Transportation Center for Railway Safety (UTCRS) research team developed a vibration-based onboard monitoring technology. Unlike existing methods, this system continuously monitors in-service bearings, offering precise health assessments. It utilizes calibrated vibration thresholds based on correlations between bearing operating speeds and vibration signatures for healthy and defective bearings. Additionally, the system identifies faulty components in tapered-roller bearings through frequency domain analysis. To maintain the accuracy of the onboard sensors in detecting defective components, the thresholds are periodically reassessed by employing regression analysis to establish revised thresholds that incorporate the latest vibration data collected from the laboratory testing of healthy and faulty bearings. These revised thresholds can enhance the health monitoring of in-service bearings, enabling rail operators to identify issues early, schedule maintenance, and prevent costly and unnecessary train stoppages. The advanced methodologies proposed by the UTCRS aim to improve bearing health monitoring in the railroad industry, ultimately reducing catastrophic derailments and associated human and capital losses.

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