By 2023, VTG plans to equip 15,000 rail freight wagons, or 15% of the VTG Rail Europe’s total wagon fleet, with sensors or wayside monitoring for all safety-related components including brakes, bogies and overall condition.

The sensors will increase the metrics provided by the company’s VTG Connect service, which provides sensor-enabled data analysis of freight wagons. Currently, the service provides metrics including shock monitoring and environmental temperature measurements as part of its basic package.

VTG plans to enable continuous monitoring of wagons, allowing a transition from time-based maintenance to more efficient predictive and status-based servicing methods. It is hoped that the technology will simplify the logistics of maintenance schedules and reduce unnecessary work and downtime, without compromising safety standards.

The project is part-funded through a €13m grant by the European Commission’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). The sensors are being developed in accordance with EU directives on rail operability and safety, including the Telematic Application for Freight (TAF), Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSI) and TEN-T guidelines.

“We are proud to be making a valuable contribution to more attractive, digital rail freight transport with this innovation project,” says Mr Sven Wellbrook, chief safety officer and chief operating officer for Europe at VTG. “Fitting our European fleet with cutting-edge sensor technology is pivotal to our digitalisation project.”

This testing comes as VTG continues development of a new modular flat wagon in collaboration with DB Cargo.

The wagon features a modular design based on standardised parts, intended to allow for easy modification to meet customer needs throughout its service life, enhancing potential performance through easy repairs and upgrades.  

Developed as part of the m2 project, the product is expected to be licensed in 2021, and will be marketed separately by VTG and DB Cargo. The two companies previously cooperated on a freight wagon project sponsored by the German federal ministry of transport, which was completed in 2019.

“We have seen in the past that we can only make rail more competitive with road if we pull together,” says Dr Heiko Fischer, CEO of VTG. The modular flat wagon we are developing in the project will further improve the offerings we are able to provide to our customers and make rail more attractive.”

“The modular flat wagon and its individual superstructures will enable us to respond even faster to the needs of our customers in the future,” says Roland Bosch, CEO of DB Cargo. “That in turn will make customers more satisfied with rail freight.”