Improving Rail’s Future Competitiveness

RailPulse Facilitates Next Generation Technology Infrastructure

Accelerated by the growth of e-commerce, global commerce and recent supply chain challenges, today’s freight transportation market is quickly evolving. Trucking and other modes are leading the adoption of new telematics technology to improve their competitive position, operational efficiency and customer service. In fact, analysts predict that 55 percent of all trucks in North America will be equipped by 2025. And a study by FTR Intelligence shows that when it comes to modal share, trucking usage has been growing while rail’s freight volumes have stagnated.

This modal market share gap has an imminent impact on rail’s competitive position for the long-term – and much of it is driven by technology innovation. RailPulse, a coalition of forward-thinking railcar owners, including railroads, railcar lessors and shippers, is addressing this trend head-on. These rail industry leaders have joined together to create a neutral, open-architecture, industry-wide railcar telematics platform that will transform rail shipping for the future.

On the upside, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), demand for freight tons moving on the nation’s transportation network will grow 30% by 20401. However, to get a bigger slice of that freight transportation pie, railroads must provide the latest technological innovations and stay on pace with other modes of transportation.

The Challenges of Today’s Rail Telematics

Today, monitoring rail logistics data is antiquated, fragmented, and overwhelming. Many railcar companies are implementing their own independent telematics solutions. These solutions often lack interoperability and a centralized view, which creates data gaps that hinder railcar management. Shippers lack visibility into their supply chains, reducing efficiency and resulting in customer frustration.

Adoption of telematics is slowed due to lack of standardization and guidelines across the rail industry. Companies are faced with countless technology options and spend extensive time and resources deciphering which sensors or systems to select and which ones will work well with other solutions. RailPulse is working to change this and ensure that GPS and telematics technology investments provide the maximum value.

What is RailPulse?

RailPulse is a coalition of railcar owners who collectively own nearly 20 percent of the North American railcar fleet. Its members currently include GATX, Trinity Rail, WATCO, Norfolk Southern, G&W, and The Greenbrier Companies. These companies are working together to facilitate and accelerate the adoption of GPS and other telematics technology in the North American rail industry.

“At RailPulse, we are joining forces with major constituents in the rail industry to develop a neutral, industry-standard technology platform that will provide customers with real-time visibility on the North American railcar fleet. We’re working to move the entire industry forward to effectively compete with other modes of transportation in the future,” says Mike McClellan, Sr Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer.

RailPulse’s primary goals include:

    • Increase adoption of railcar telematics
    • Improve overall rail safety
    • Provide meaningful insights into rail performance
    • Help drive growth for the rail industry

RailPulse works for the benefit of all constituents in the rail ecosystem including: shippers, Class I railroads, short lines, regional railroads, switching carriers, and railcar operating lessors – all while enhancing the security of proprietary car-owner data.

The Railpulse Technology Platform

RailPulse’s proposed platform will enable real-time data from GPS and railcar-mounted sensors to drive improved service levels, visibility, safety, sustainability, and productivity industry-wide. It will allow the rail industry to quickly adopt the same technology that its competitors already have in place.

The RailPulse platform will provide real-time data via GPS and other telematics inputs across the North American railcar fleet in three areas:

Location – Track-level GPS latitude and longitude location of the railcar, both moving and stopped

Condition – The status of the car in terms of loaded/unloaded, doors open/closed, hatches opened/closed, temperature, moisture, impact, or any other onboard sensors

Health – The mechanical health of the car in terms of bearings, bolsters, air, couplers, or other components

How It Works

Transforming the Rail Industry

The RailPulse platform will transform the customer experience by combining real-time, highly accurate, and comprehensive data with leading edge analytics. RailPulse began planning and development of the new platform in 2021 thanks to a Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant through the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), as well as additional investments from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and our coalition members. For more information about RailPulse and to receive regular updates on its progress, visit and follow RailPulse on LinkedIn.


 1 The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Freight Analysis Framework, version 4.1.