Idle management devices allow idling locomotives to be automatically shut down and restarted.

Application relevance

Limited idle reduction opportunities exist for main line applications due to regulations that prevent locomotives from being switched off. Additionally, auxiliary power systems may be needed to provide driver comfort in remote locations. In the US the technology is mainly targeted at switcher locomotives.

Regulatory considerations that currently limit the use of automatic start-stop due to safety considerations may need to be taken into account. Otherwise, retrofitting the technology does not appear to be complicated.

Potential benefits

Fuel savings depend on the amount of time spent idling in normal operations. Difficulty may exist when calculating the baseline as there is a limited definition of idling as it relates to different power requirements of a train along its planned route. Case studies in North America have identified reductions in fuel consumption of over 80% at idle. Noise and air quality benefits are also demonstrated in many case studies.

Key implementation considerations

Most studies indicate the need for government funding and target air quality benefits in addition to fuel savings. The technology may achieve limited results on linehaul applications, or create more uncertainty about payback of idle reduction. Ingrained habits or practices established by drivers may also reduce the effectiveness of the technology.

Examples of implementation

Vancouver, WA, Switchyard Locomotive Idle Reduction Project

This case study (opens in a new window) PDF 134 KB describes the outcome of a trial involving an investment of US$125,000 across three locomotives to reduce idling. The adoption of the Hotstart technology to enable idle reductions may not be relevant for Australian conditions. A reduction of 9733 idle hours and 180,000 L of diesel per year was recorded (Southwest Clean Air Agency 2005).

Locomotive Emission Reduction Efforts

This is a case study (opens in a new window) PDF 53 KB of a number of idle reduction systems installed between 2002 and 2005 on over thirty locomotives including sixteen 4000 hp locomotives that perform heavy freight tasks. This case study may not be as relevant for Australian operators because it considers the implications of colder temperatures that limit idle reduction measures (Alaska Rail Road 2011).

For the full report on fuel saving opportunities in the road and rail sectors, see Fuel for Thought – Identifying potential energy efficiency opportunities in the Australian road and rail sectors (opens in a new window) PDF 1.5 MB.