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Patents, Progress, & Practices

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The transportation industry is a demanding industry, hungry for systematic improvements, technology assistance, and time.  Adding up maintenance fees, damage and equipment downtime can quickly tip the scales in profits and service.  Finding solutions to these challenges is a constant priority, and helping shippers track what matters can help.  As we seek additional ways to monitor occurrences that affect the bottom line, we develop and patent new products with the insight and innovation to bring reliable solutions.

Crew and load security are of constant concern and costly ongoing issues.  Temperature damage can spoil entire loads and reduce margins.  Flat Wheels from forgotten handbrakes total hundreds of millions of dollars each year in replacement costs.  All the while, efficient use of trailers and railcars is demanded to meet expectations and keep leasing costs lower.  

If a magic device were able to manage these challenges, it would be all to welcome.  And the best instrument is knowledge.  Being able to learn where, what, when, and how these problems arise allow for a systematic set of solutions. 

Our most recent patent awarded was for creating a multi-functional sensor that was self-contained for ease of installation.  The Orientation-Based Wireless Sensing Apparatus is otherwise known as the RF Sensor, is capable of monitoring security, temperature, and tilt.  The RF Sensor is the size of a deck of cards, but collects a large amount of data.  With a surface mount thermistor, digital temperature readings can be collected from a surface mount or with a small attached pigtail, and is frequently helpful for food safety.  Additionally, the RF Sensor contains accelerometers that provide a tilt reading given in degrees that can be mounted to detect if a load is empty or full, or the position of the handbrake on a railcar.  This can quickly payoff when flat wheel damage can be assessed to a specific rail yard and not a shipper.  Magnetic switches can easily monitor security breaches, and generate text or email alerts.

Case Study: A large chemical shipper faced concerns with safety, security, and product integrity.  The liquid chemical was being transported in tank cars traveling across North America, causing concern over temperature degradation in the varied climates.  Additionally, the product was valuable to illegal drug manufacturers and posed a security concern for crew and public safety.  The Lat-Lon Solar Tracking Unit with separate RF Sensor was installed on cars as a hatch security sensor, and temperature sensor.  Given that up to 10 of the RF Sensors can be paired with one Solar Tracking Unit, the shipper was happy to equip their fleet and monitor multiple points of data.  With the customizable web reporting system, they were able to make quick, easy to understand alerts to instantly know what happened, where, when and even take pictures of incidents.  

Another shipper was spending a great deal of money on flat wheel repairs.  

Learn more:  Coal Transporter: Handbrakes, Wheelsets; and Accountability 

The article focuses on the damage incurred in overlooking the release of the handbrake prior to moving a railcar. Mitsui Rail Capital (MRC), a Lat-Lon customer, brought the challenge to us and now has a method to better understand what is occurring regarding their railcar's handbrake. With GPS tracking and a RF Sensor Unit, MRC can see when and where the handbrake is applied and released, and even send an alert if applied while moving. Read More or contact us for more information at support@lat-lon.com.

Jones, P.L. & Kerr, D. (2012). Handbrakes; Wheelsets; and Accountability. Who's Stuck with the Bill? Coal Transporter, (Issue 1) Pages 42-44