How the CN train derailment in New Brunswick could have been avoided.

3 February 2022

A CN train derailed in the small village of Saint-Hilaire on 26 January 2021. The cause was the failure of a worn component – a failure that could have been prevented with proper inspection.

The derailment was caused by the failure of a worn component that helps hold the cars together. It caused the derailment of 22 freight cars in northwestern New Brunswick, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says.

No regular inspection had been carried out.

The investigation revealed that there is no prescribed inspection interval for transverse keys installed on cars equipped with hydraulic end-of-car damping devices, also known as EOCCDs.

The keys generally remain in service for many years and are only replaced when they are worn beyond their limits or when they have a condemnable defect.

In Canada, there are approximately 534 derailments per year. On average, rail accidents cause 66 deaths, 34 injuries and cost millions of dollars annually.
preventable train derailment new brunswick

Going forward, we know that these types of incidents can be prevented in 3 steps:

  • 1) Establish a maintenance program.
  • 2) Eliminate potential defects.
  • 3) Program a preventive maintenance alert into your inspection platform.

Establish a maintenance schedule.

When machine repairs and maintenance occur at regular intervals, these efforts can significantly improve the equipment reliability of these systems. Therefore, organizations should ensure that they establish a consistent schedule to follow for preventive maintenance. As part of this process, administrators and key personnel should first identify critical inspections to be included in their plans. A numerical schedule should also list the types of maintenance to be performed on each individual system and with pre-scheduled intervals at which repairs, changes or checks should be made. Administrators can rely on the advice and knowledge of site inspectors who regularly deal with this equipment, as well as recommendations from manufacturers, to create this plan.

Eliminate potential defects.

In addition to creating a preventive maintenance plan, organizations should also seek to eliminate any potential defects in parts that could lead to failure. Inspectors and operators should carry out audits on the parts used in their trains and identify any equipment defects in an accessible database that could lead to failure. By examining previous failures of the same machines by other users, as well as manufacturer’s notices, they can prevent these defects from causing accidents.

Modern Train Maintenance Inspection

Program a preventive maintenance alert into your inspection platform.

Modern equipment monitoring will help you collect and track the necessary data. A digital solution is one of the best practices to prevent equipment failure. Without the risk of losing information when changing employees or processes and eliminating the transcription steps, delays and risks that paper forms entail.

This facilitates the deployment of an intelligent equipment health monitoring system, and helps to gain insight into the health of key components in real time. Such a technology solution can include sensors to measure the stress or temperature of components and offer the ability to perform preventive maintenance before larger problems arise. Modern inspection processes can be assisted by IOT, digital cameras and feed your inspection software with intelligent alerts and automatic reminders, all in a navigable database.

Such a process can improve overall uptime as well as equipment reliability, making it a wise investment.


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