The current prevailing technique for inspecting railcars is periodic visual examination while a train is stopped in a rail yard. In North America, such inspection is regulated by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Near real-time automated inspection of in-service freight cars would provide a way to digitally trend component health, reduce operator subjectivity, and increase the rate at which potentially failing components can be identified. Specifically facilitating condition trending, machine vision inspections provide a path for proactive maintenance rather than reactive repair. This article is aimed to introduce Materials Evaluation readers to recent developments and accomplishments with automated inspection of freight car components in North America, existing US governmental regulations, current industry challenges, and future opportunities for the automated condition assessment of freight cars.
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