National Academies Press: OpenBook

Assessing and Mitigating Electrical Fires on Transit Vehicles (2021)

Chapter: Chapter 5 Implementation of Research Team Recommendations

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 5 Implementation of Research Team Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Assessing and Mitigating Electrical Fires on Transit Vehicles. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26288.
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Page 24
Page 25
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 5 Implementation of Research Team Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Assessing and Mitigating Electrical Fires on Transit Vehicles. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26288.
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Page 25

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24 Chapter 5 – Implementation of Research Team Recommendations Plan for Implementation The research team made a series of recommendations in Chapters 3 and 4 to mitigate the number of electrical fires occurring on transit vehicles. Some of these recommendations can be implemented successfully by individual transit systems. Others might be most effectively implemented industry-wide in conjunction with the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) or other rail standards development organizations. APTA committees could potentially take a leadership role in implementing the research findings. Review of Preventive Maintenance Inspection Procedures In Chapter 3, the research team recommended that transit systems review their current Preventive Maintenance Inspection (PMI) procedures and checklists to ensure that they are designed to identify electrical issues that could result in potential thermal events and make the proper repairs. The investigators provided suggestions for sources of information for improving PMIs including bus and rail car manufacturers’ maintenance manuals, drawings, and photo documentation of cable routing on new vehicles; and requirements from the Australian Standard on fire protection. Instead of leaving it to individual transit systems to perform this work, the research team is recommending this work be presented to APTA so that its appropriate technical committees and/or standards working groups could consider taking on these tasks. Training for Employees Performing Preventive Maintenance Inspections Another recommendation made by the research team in Chapter 3 suggested that transit systems examine the training provided to their mechanics who perform PMIs to make sure their inspectors are adequately prepared to identify electrical fire risks. Mechanic training varies substantially between different transit systems. Smaller properties often do not have the resources to conduct in-depth mechanical training. While performing several recent training studies, members of the research team have found that often the least experienced mechanics are assigned to perform PMIs. The research team recognized these issues and is suggesting the development of new training programs for bus and rail car inspectors. The team is recommending that private and non-profit training organizations be contacted about potentially developing these training programs. These companies are national leaders in providing technical training for transit system employees that have developed many mechanic or technician training curricula that are now part of the APTA training standards. New inspection classes, if developed, could be added as resources or references under APTA’s training standards. Development of Predictive Maintenance Guidelines for Transit Systems During the data gathering process, several of the transit properties indicated that they did not have many issues with electrical fires on their vehicles partly because they had incorporated predictive maintenance procedures into their PMI programs. The FTA has long provided funding for predictive maintenance procedures. The theory behind effective predictive maintenance is the programmed replacement of critical components as they approach the end of their useful life and before they fail in service. Changing electric motors, main cables and support brackets, alternators, current collection

25 equipment, etc., on a time and/or mileage basis can reduce the risk of electrical fires that accompany the aging of these components. The research team is recommending that the appropriate APTA technical working groups or standards committees consider developing guidelines for transit systems to follow when establishing predictive maintenance programs buses and light and heavy rail vehicles. Development of a National Transit Bus Fire Data Base Despite the efforts of the research team, the amount of data collected for the research described in Chapters 2 and 4 was limited. The research team feels that it would be helpful to have an industry data base to document all fires that occur on transit buses in North America and the effectiveness of the fire suppression systems installed on those buses during those events. The research team is recommending the creation of a national bus fire data base if there is interest and support by affected organizations. The information collected from this data base should be reported annually so all member properties can determine the types of bus fires that appear to be most prevalent. This data base should be designed to document the effectiveness of fire suppression systems in mitigating bus fires. This data can be then used by transit systems as a guide when making new bus procurement decisions. Development and Testing of Fire Suppression Systems on Battery Electric Buses The research discussed in Chapter 4 found that the Battery Electric Bus (BEB) manufacturers in North America have not explored the efficacy of using fire suppression systems on their vehicles. As part of this research the fire suppression system suppliers indicated a lack of consensus on what type of system is optimal for BEB applications. The research team recommends that research be conducted to understand whether there are potential benefits from installing fire suppression systems on battery electric buses. The team also recommends that if there are such benefits identified, fire suppression system manufacturers communicate the specific design elements for systems that are appropriate for use on battery-electric buses.

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Transit vehicle fires have safety implications for passengers and employees as well as liability implications for manufacturers, suppliers, and operators. Many of the electrical/arcing fire events experienced in the transit industry have led to a total loss of the vehicle and/or serious smoke incidents.

The TRB Transit Cooperative Research Program's pre-publication draft of TCRP Research Report 229: Assessing and Mitigating Electrical Fires on Transit Vehicles provides transit systems with information and techniques to avoid the interruption of revenue service, passenger injuries, and expenditures of operating and capital funds that occur as the result of fires on transit buses and rail vehicles.

Supplemental to the report is a Presentation describing details of the project.

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