Heavy-duty rail gear on a truck

Improve operator efficiency with the right rail gear

For an operator working on their own, setting a truck on the tracks can be a frustrating task.

With no one to help guide the alignment, they’re often forced to eyeball the placement, get out of the cab, realize the truck is not centered, climb back in, move the truck and repeat the process.

Not only is this a waste of time, but it’s also a waste of money — after all, one of the highest costs of railroad operation in North America is labor. So, the more efficient the operator, the greater the returns for the railroad.

Fortunately, using the right rail gear can help operators improve their efficiency and avoid situations like this. Higher quality equipment that is more reliable, more durable and limits the opportunity for human error keeps trucks on the tracks and out of the repair shop.

In this article, we’ll walk you through how you can improve operator efficiency and maintain a lean operation by:
● Reducing errors with auto-mechanical lock systems
● Aligning trucks easily with side shifts
● Reducing labor needs with remotely controlled hydrostatic creep drive systems
● Limiting wheel replacements with stub axles

Auto-mechanical locks reduce errors when deploying and stowing gear

The component that our customers replace most often? Pins. The manual, cable or air pins that keep our rail gear locked in place get damaged when an operator misses a step while deploying or stowing the gear, or when an air or cable pin doesn’t fully come out.

Every time this happens, it takes a truck out of commission until it is repaired. This increases maintenance costs and reduces that truck’s availability.

To make this process more efficient, we designed an auto-mechanical lock system (AML). Not only does its over-center design eliminate the need for locks in the deployed position, but it also locks automatically when the gear is stowed.

By removing the need for an operator to leave the cab, climb over the tire or slide under the truck, manually match the pin holes, get back in the cab and repeat the process to unpin the gear, we’ve made the set up and set down processes faster, safer and more efficient. Even if it only saves a minute or two when deploying and stowing gear, that time adds up.

Much like the other AML systems on the market, ours is currently only available for heavy-duty gear. But unlike other systems on the market, ours retains the ability to use side shift and is truly mechanical — no hydraulic, pneumatic, cable or electric devices. This increases reliability and uptime, while reducing installation and maintenance time.

Line trucks to the rail easily with side shift

Available for our heavy-duty gear, our side shift helps get your trucks lined with the tracks the first time, every time.

Traditionally for trucks without side shift, the truck has to be lined up correctly with the tracks for the gear to deploy onto the track. But with side shift, the operator only has to set one side of the gear on the rail, then the side shift will physically move the truck to line it with the track.

This can save your operators anywhere from two to 10 minutes of maneuvering their trucks into the right position on track. Especially if your operator is working on their own, this gives them more flexibility and safety to take advantage of their full work window.

Remotely controlled equipment reduces labor needs

Installing a hydrostatic creep drive system on your material handlers is another way you can improve your operators’ efficiency. With this system, there’s no need to leave the crow’s nest (or call in a second pair of hands) to maneuver the truck; your operator can control the whole truck from their seat.

Traditionally, creep drive systems tie into the truck’s transmission (either manual or automatic) and the system works off the truck’s propulsion. This makes for a bouncy, clunky ride that jostles the crow’s nest around. While both uncomfortable and unsafe, it also makes it difficult to control the speed of the truck. Additionally, the manual transmission system requires constant adjustments, and the automatic transmission requires a complex and labor-intensive installation.

Our hydrostatic creep drive is installed inside the front hi-rail axle and attaches to your truck like our traditional rail gear. Instead of being tied to the transmission, the motor is mounted on the axle itself, creating a smoother, more controllable ride. Now you can have more precision when it comes to speed — anywhere from one mile an hour up to five — and when you stop, which reduces the amount of adjustment you need on the track.

While installation and maintenance are also easier with our hydrostatic creep drive system, transmission propulsion is available as a redundancy. That way, if the system fails, the truck isn’t stuck on the tracks, stopping trains and impacting railroad revenue.

Reduce wheel replacements by using stub axles

When your operators are working on a section of track near a crossing gate, it’s important that they avoid disturbing local traffic by activating the gate. The best way to do that is through insulated rail gear.

However, when the insulation is inside the wheel hub, that insulator eventually wears out. When that happens, that wheel must be replaced. This means that insulated wheels are replaced more often than non-insulated wheels.

To combat this, we designed an insulator that fits into the axle housing instead, which increases the life of the wheel. Not only does this remove high-temperature wear from the equation, but it also means the truck has four matching wheels that should wear at the same rate. Additionally, stub axles reduce wheel inventory and cost.

Boost efficiency and flexibility with the right partner

When you control the process, you control the outcome. That’s why we manufacture 90% of our rail gear components in-house with the highest quality, North American-sourced raw materials. It gives us more oversight into our products and puts us closer to our suppliers and our customers. So, if you need a replacement part, it doesn’t ship from overseas — it ships from Atlanta.

In fact, 90% of our part orders ship out the same day. And if we don’t have what you need in our inventory, we can manufacture it today and get it out the door tomorrow.

To see the benefits for yourself and keep your operation moving efficiently, get in touch with our team.

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