INRD’s Sustainability Efforts Go Beyond Locomotives to Lightbulbs and F-150s
ASLRRA member The Indiana Rail Road Company (INRD) is taking its sustainability efforts beyond the tracks, implementing environmentally friendly technology in many aspects of company operations and showing how these steps, big and small, produce significant results.
At the core of railroad operations are the trains that move goods. INRD uses technology to lower fuel consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The mother-slug locomotive configuration is one way INRD increases efficiency. It enables one diesel engine to do the work of two, while providing double the tractive power. Fuel consumption, exhaust emissions and noise pollution are reduced, and time between servicing and refueling is extended.
Engine idling is a significant source of pollution, so many INRD initiatives focus on reducing idling. INRD employs ZTR’s SmartStart system to monitor locomotive and environmental conditions and determine whether it is safe to shut down the locomotive engine. SmartStart technology has helped INRD reduce its fuel and oil consumption, emissions and restart exhaust smoke while collecting data on fuel management and savings.
To maximize operations in the winter, INRD installed Hotstart Idle Reduction Systems. These auxiliary power units heat locomotive water and oil and charge batteries, making sure the locomotive is warm and ready to go without keeping the engine on.
Installing Medha electronic governors in locomotives has further improved fuel efficiency, allowing INRD to control engine speed with precision. Having this strict control ensures the engine is operating under optimal conditions and not using excess fuel when it is not needed, such as during start up.
Physical technology helps reduce emissions, but data collection is also an important aspect of eco-friendly operations. The Wi-Tronix IoT platform helps INRD collect and analyze data with artificial intelligence, video analytics and machine learning, so that INRD can monitor each locomotive’s fuel consumption and send mechanics to examine any locomotive idling for over two hours. The program has helped INRD reduce the idle fuel consumption of its entire locomotive fleet by 50 percent in August 2021 compared to August 2020.
The effort put into efficient operations goes beyond locomotives. INRD has spent the past several years converting lights in offices and around rail yards to LED bulbs. Not only do LED lights last longer and use less energy, they also emit very little heat, making them safer.
But INRD is replacing more than light bulbs. A new company initiative will build a more eco-friendly fleet of company vehicles, replacing the standard Ford F-150 trucks currently in use with hybrid versions. INRD will start the process with its taxi service fleet, hoping to complete the transition in the next three to five years.
INRD facilities also demonstrate the company’s environmentally friendly focus. To help power the new LED bulbs, at least at its Indianapolis headquarters, INRD completed installation of rooftop solar panels in July. The panels are expected to provide almost half the energy used at INRD headquarters, cutting energy costs.
INRD’s state-of-the-art locomotive maintenance facility has also undergone a conversion to LED lighting, but it is the way the facility processes water that makes it stand out. A unique oil-water recycling system collects all contaminated water, oily wastewater and petroleum products and treats it for release into local sewers, cleaning dirty water far beyond what is dictated by state regulations. A separate system captures all storm runoff from the facility’s buildings, which amounts to 36,000 square feet of roof, and drains it directly into a storm-water sewer system and then into state waters. Catching runoff and diverting it immediately to the sewer prevents it from becoming contaminated before it enters state waters and helps INRD avoid runoff-related erosion on its property.
Finally, INRD looks beyond company boundaries to advance other sustainability initiatives. INRD is a founding member of the Repurposing Carbon Consortium, formed in part with researchers at Purdue University. The goal of the consortium is to determine new uses for waste railroad ties, of which the U.S. rail industry produces 21 million each year.
INRD “prides itself on investing ahead of the growth curve and envisioning tomorrow’s opportunities. When looking to the future, INRD strives to be a sustainable organization wherever possible,” said company officials in a statement. The efforts of INRD are a testament to the diverse ways railroads address environmental concerns in their operations, and how it can start with something as simple as changing a lightbulb.