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Tracking South African Trains Using Telematics

When we think of trains, some people still imagine an old steam engine, but trains still serve as an important means of transport for people and different goods. According to the South Africa Country Commercial Guide, the South African Government plans to “spend R900 billion by 2027 on transportation infrastructure”.  

Although rail transport suffers from serious constraints due to its lack of flexibility and excessive maintenance costs, some businesses have decided to move away from road transport and focus on rail transport in order to transport their cargo. The latter is reflected in the Land Transport Report released by Stats SA in May 2018, whereby road freight decreased by 0,8% while rail freight increased by 0,5%.

This is a conscious decision to reduce the impact on our road infrastructure along with improving road safety. Former SA Road Federation president, Logashri Sewnerain, believes the way of bringing down South Africa’s “high crash and death rate” is to move more freight using rail.

One such business asked Geotab Africa to provide them with a complete monitoring solution for their rail transportation.

The Task

Geotab Africa was tasked to provide a solution that includes, but is not limited to:

  • Reading oil pressure
  • Horn activation
  • Impact detection
  • Productivity reporting

We eagerly took up the challenge and worked on providing a working proof of concept.

Geotab’s Evaluation

The power and wiring of trains differ greatly from normal cars. For one, the trains of our customer run on a voltage that is higher than 72V, so it was necessary to make changes to control the current. Further to this, trains operate under different environmental conditions. The task to our solution engineers was to develop a business plan that considered the factors mentioned above. We supplied various materials to work in dusty, vibrating and heated environments. We also took measures not to interfere with any systems on the locomotive, such as the two-way radios.

Geotab’s Solution

We introduced key control to get accurate records of each conductor. This feature also stops unauthorized activity in the event that the conductor does not have a valid permit. Our reporting system can determine the time of arrival and departure based on geo-fencing.

Exception monitoring reports are provided on:

  • Excessive idling
  • Accident notification
  • Speeding
  • Horn activation
  • High water temperature
  • Low oil pressure

The MyGeotab Software Development Kit (SDK) enables us to use an API to collect information from other areas of the business and form a complete solution. This is an exciting new avenue for MyGeotab and we are prepared to meet any future client needs.

Author: Riaan Grobler, Operations Manager – Geotab Africa

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