News Release

Railway association statement on electronically controlled pneumatic brakes

Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) braking systems use electronic controls to activate air-powered brakes on all cars in a train simultaneously. ECP brakes do not prevent derailments from happening; rather, this technology has some limited potential to mitigate the severity of a derailment. The Railway Association of Canada (RAC) believes this marginal safety benefit must be weighed against the considerable operational challenges of implementing this technology, and the additional risk posed to employee safety.

For ECP to work, all locomotives and cars in a train would need to be equipped with the technology. For that reason, railway companies could only use ECP when operating unit – as opposed to mixed – freight trains, which would have adverse effects on network fluidity.

In addition to this operational challenge, ECP would increase the amount of time that crews spend between rail cars – the point of greatest safety risk for railway employees. Crew members currently have to step between cars in order to separate or join air brake systems. The ECP system would add a second connection and separation step – increasing the time spent between cars, and the potential for injury.

Finally, in tests done by the railway industry, ECP brakes did not provide significant safety benefits. The technology was shown to reduce the severity of a derailment to a very small degree; only preventing an average of less than two additional tank cars out of 100 cars from derailing, when compared to a non-ECP equipped train.

RAC believes that the new tank car standard recently announced by Transport Canada will deliver the most meaningful results in mitigating the impacts of a potential derailment. RAC also believes that by focusing resources on other technologies proven to prevent derailments, the railway industry can have a much more meaningful safety impact.



Alex Paterson
Railway Association of Canada

About the Railway Association of Canada

The Railway Association of Canada (RAC) represents more than 50 freight and passenger railway companies that move 75 million people and more than $280 billion worth of goods in Canada each year. As the voice of Canada’s railway industry, RAC advocates on behalf of its members and associate members to ensure that the rail sector remains globally competitive, sustainable, and most importantly, safe. Learn more at Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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