HOW TO IMPROVE RISK MANAGEMENT OF BRIDGES
In our April issue, we are introducing what may be a new service to many of you, Bellwether Structural Health Monitoring, developed by Heuristic Actions, Inc., a Nevada-based company. Bellwether is based on breakthrough technology and is the result of many years of careful development and stringent testing. Bellwether is an affordable, wireless electronic structural assessment and monitoring system. We believe that Bellwether is the key to significantly improving risk management of railroad bridges. See link to Heuristic Actions/Bellwether below:
In improving risk management of bridges, there are a number of challenges, solutions and benefits to consider. We are pointing out here some solutions which Bellwether can bring to overcome certain key challenges, as well as some of the benefits resulting from the use of Bellwether.
(1) Potential loss of bridges located within “chokepoints,” on the rail network. If lost to daily use, this would result in serious economic and market share loss.
Solution – Bellwether provides continuous monitoring and current actionable information. Detects both sudden and gradual changes in structural status. Can provide immediate alerts to operations decision makers to avert outages and disasters.
Benefits – Acting quickly to avoid and/or mitigate loss of a bridge that is a chokepoint within a railroad’s network could save the railroad millions of dollars.
(2) Railroads must compete for access to capital markets. This requires that they reliably meet or exceed the market’s expectations concerning revenue and earnings.
Solution – Bellwether provides accurate, objective and reliable sensor-derived information to augment traditional metrics such as age or amount of ton/miles that have traversed the bridge. Railroad management can use this comprehensive knowledge to triage their bridge inventory and establish a 3-5 year bridge plan to keep, rebuild, or replace.
Benefits – A bridge inventory management plan based upon accurate and reliable data documenting a bridge’s ability to perform as designed enables the railroad to achieve a balance between risk and reward, goals and risk tolerance, saving the railroad millions of dollars.
(3) Railroads experience unanticipated bridge failures. Often these are undetected by the signal system because the track circuit remained unbroken as a result of the track remaining intact suspended over the failed bridge.
Solution – Bellwether provides immediate detection and reporting of bridge failures based upon an end-to-end assessment of the bridge.
Benefits – Knowledge of a bridge failure despite the continuing report by the track circuit to the contrary, enables the railroad to avoid a potential costly loss. The railroad can immediately reroute traffic that had not yet, but was intended to cross the failed bridge, thus avoiding potential injury and loss of life and the sure loss of millions of dollars.
(4) Railroads experience known and unknown bridge strikes from vehicle or watercraft collisions.
Solution – Bellwether provides detection and immediate reporting of all bridge strikes and automatically provides an immediate re-assessment of structural status following the strike.
Benefits – The railroad is made immediately aware of a bridge strike which enables the railroad to quickly assess the bridge for structural damage. This enables the railroad to take the necessary steps to avoid further loss, potentially saving the railroad millions of dollars. Further, the alerts can help the railroad avoid a catastrophic event resulting in loss of life and environmental damage.
(5) Railroads experience unknown bridge fires. Many railroad bridges are located in unpopulated areas where fires can burn unnoticed until a train approaches.
Solution – Bellwether allows faster, more effective recovery following an incident such as a fire, collision, or an earthquake based on end-to-end assessment of the bridge.
Benefits – With Bellwether’s alerts, the railroad is made immediately aware of a bridge fire, thus enabling the railroad to quickly assess the bridge for structural damage. The railroad can take quick action to avoid further loss, potentially saving the railroad millions of dollars. Further, the alerts can help the railroad avoid a catastrophic event resulting in loss of life and environmental damage.
(6) Railroads must compete to obtain access to commercial insurance markets. Due to changing conditions that are beyond a railroad’s ability to control, property and casualty insurance for U.S. freight railroads is often limited and difficult to obtain.
Solution – Railroads that deploy Bellwether will be more attractive to commercial insurers than those that do not. Why? Because those with Bellwether are much less likely to experience a loss resulting from bridge failure.
Benefits – Having the ability of transferring risk of loss to commercial insurers can save a railroad millions of dollars. How? First: The insurer will reimburse the railroad for its economic losses. Second: Without commercial insurance, railroads must pay losses out of operating income. Access to commercial insurance can, over time, save a railroad millions of dollars.
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