Why the DAC is essential for the future of rail freight transport and for freight wagon keepers

10. 06. 2020

Guest author: Gilles Peterhans, Secretary General at International Union of Wagon Keepers (UIP)

Efficient and competitive rail freight is key to meeting the needs of both climate protection and rising transport volumes. In order to achieve this, locomotives and waggons need to be fitted with Digital Automatic Coupling (DAC) as a game-changer for the comprehensive automation and digitalisation of rail freight transport.

The DAC allows for both the sufficient energy supply for telematics applications and the secure data communication throughout the entire train. Thanks to this enabling technology we now have the unique opportunity to become the first region in which rail can fully exploit its potential.

Never before have the framework conditions been so promising. In the Technical Innovation Circle for Rail Freight Transport (TIS), wagon owners, railway undertakings and coupler manufacturers come together with the common goal of drafting a European migration strategy for the comprehensive introduction of the DAC by this summer, based on a study commissioned by the German Transport Ministry. In addition, a demonstrator train is planned to show the advantages of the DAC in real-life conditions. Furthermore, the EU has committed itself to the goal of climate neutrality by 2050 and is therefore urgently seeking measures to promote the shift to rail.

However, if we are to achieve our common goal of increasing the share of rail freight transport to 30% by 2030, the entire sector needs to make a huge effort. Here, policymakers and the sector are counting on performance improvements to make better use of the existing capacities. In this sense, it is essential that we all stand firmly together and proclaim with one voice: "The DAC is our top priority for rail freight!”.

In order to foster its EU-wide deployment, our common DAC-Charta focuses on the following three key steps that politicians and the rail sector must tackle:

  1. Accelerate the development phase;
  2. Ensure the necessary financing for a Europe-wide roll-out; and
  3. Draw up a European roadmap for migration to the DAC.

We shouldn’t be afraid of the DAC challenges but rather of the consequences of standing still!

Convinced of this, we, at UIP, have already started working together with the other sector associations and the EU institutions on the implementation of these steps.

International Union of Wagon Keepers (UIP)

Founded in 1950, the UIP – International Union of Wagon Keepers, with its seat in Brussels, is the umbrella association of national associations from fourteen European countries, thus representing more than 250 freight wagon keepers and ECMs with more than 210’000 freight wagons, performing 50 % of the rail freight tonne-Kilometres throughout Europe. The UIP represents the members’ concerns at the international level. By means of research, lobbying and focused cooperation with all stakeholders and organisations interested in rail freight transportation, the UIP wants to secure on the long term the future of rail freight transport.