Heard & overheard: Overworking on the railroads

"Capacity is the critical issue facing all stakeholders in the rail industry today," says Ted Torbeck, president and CEO of GE Equipment Services, Rail Services (www.ge.com/railservices), caused by a shortage of crews, power and infrastructure. It is not an overstatement, he insists, to say that the country's rail network is currently running at full capacity.

From GE's perspective, one solution to the capacity problem is to promote safer and more efficient use of equipment. Torbeck's unit leases approximately 180,000 railroad cars and 150,000 intermodal trailers, containers and chassis to shippers and railroads.

"The Association of American Railroads (AAR)," Torbeck points out, "recently implemented the Advanced Technology Safety Initiative (ATSI) to detect and report potential safety problems and poorly performing equipment before they result in accidents or undue rail damage." This initiative, which GE supports, depends on transparency in the data of all assets on the railroads.

"Most railcar owners and lessors are still capturing and maintaining their own railcar data. The goal of ATSI is to integrate these systems and make data available to all end users. We encourage the AAR to continue working with the lessors and owners of the railcars to determine the most effective method to reach that goal with minimal financial impact to our customers and an already strained rail infrastructure."

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