If you see a Buckingham Branch RR (BB) train crew out working these days, you might notice something new. Each train crew is now equipped with an Android tablet to keep track of car movements and communicate with our agent. Since the start of the BB in 1989, the railroad industry has been striving to become more efficient. When railroads interchange cars to each other, accurate and timely data are critical. When information is delayed, shipments get delayed and railcars will sit in a yard until the next railroad knows where to take the car.
In the past, the BB agent would prepare and fax a switch list for each crew at the beginning of the shift. This paperwork would show the crews where to stop and what to do with the cars in their train. Throughout the day, the conductor would write notes on the paper and fax it back to the agent at the end of the shift which might be in the middle of the night when no agent is on duty.
With the transition to tablets, a conductor is able to see every car on the railroad and receive real time updates from the agent when a customer releases a car or makes a switch request. As the crew moves cars during the day, the conductor enters the move in the tablet for an actual time record of the move. The greatest benefit for the industry relates to interchange. BB crews now digitally interchange cars to another railroad at the same time the cars are physically delivered. This provides the next railroad with the waybills and other information on the cars so they continue on their route without delay.
Timeliness is measured across the industry and every railroad is encouraged to make improvements. In October of 2014, BB was at a 51% timeliness level for all moves. In July of 2015, 86% of all moves were within the timely window with continuous improvement for the past 6 months. BB continues to look for ways to streamline our processes and improve customer service and the new tablets are a step in the right direction.