Taking a page from the motor carrier industry's use of cab deflectors to smooth air flow over trailers, the Union Pacific Railroad on Monday introduced patented technology designed to make double-stack intermodal trains more aerodynamic and reduce fuel consumption.
The Arrowedge technology, developed by UP employees, is scheduled to be placed in regular train service this month on the main line between Joliet, Ill., and Long Beach, Calif., the company said.
The drag-reducing Arrowedge is a 48-foot tapered, wedge-shaped body that's positioned on top of the first freight container behind the locomotives to allow the air to flow more easily around the top containers towards the front of the train.
Railroads have taken many steps to reduce carbon emissions and improve fuel efficiency, such as using increasing the size of trains, investing in more fuel-efficient locomotives, using computers to optimize train speed and spacing, reducing idling, and better wheel-rail lubrication. In 2011, it took one gallon of diesel fuel to move one ton of freight 469 miles, almost twice as far as the same load could be moved in 1980, according to the American Association of Railroads. U.S. freight railroads consumed 3.7 billion fewer gallons of fuel and emitted 41 million fewer tons of carbon dioxide than they would if their fuel efficiency remained at 1980 levels.
The railroad industry is studying the use of liquefied natural gas to power locomotives and other measures to further advance environmental sustainability. - Eric Kulisch