As environmental standards evolve in the European market, the railway industry is looking for innovative products to save operational dollars while allowing them to comply with environmental standards. ZTR Control Systems recognized the need for locomotive systems to advance performance and reduce environmental impact many years ago and developed SmartStart®, a locomotive Automatic Engine Start-Stop system (AESS). Now, they are seeing an increased demand for this technology in the European market. Matthew Scott, General Manager of the Railway Division at ZTR, explains the high-level of interest in one of the company’s flagship products.

1. How did ZTR Control Systems get started in the Locomotive business?

In 1987, a small team of engineers came up with an idea for an automatic start-stop system to help locomotives reduce idling and save fuel. A few years later, SmartStart® hit the market and the company has never looked back. We continue to develop innovative ways to improve locomotive functionality.

2. Why was SmartStart® such a ‘game changer’ when it was released and what has continued to make it one of ZTR Control Systems’ ‘signature products’?

SmartStart® became a revolutionary product because no one else had a solution that would monitor all critical conditions of the locomotive to be able to safely shut down and restart the locomotive. It lowered emissions by reducing idle time in a safe way and provided customers with a return-on-investment (ROI) of less than one year. Ultimately, it was the locomotive expertise of the founders of ZTR and their innovative thinking that allowed them to create a product that revolutionized the industry. With over 7000 systems installed worldwide and remote reporting options, SmartStart® is a well-established product with advanced fleet reporting that other after-market AESS systems can’t typically compete with.

3. Why is SmartStart® a definitive answer for many European rail operators looking for fuel savings and environmental benefits?

With the cost of fuel continually on the rise, railways are increasingly looking to improve fuel consumption. SmartStart® AESS systems do just that. By reducing locomotive idling, SmartStart® cuts both fuel consumption and emissions.  These fuel savings and emissions reductions are documented with built-in reporting features.  SmartStart® can be applied to just about any locomotive that you can manually start — from relay logic to microprocessor—regardless of manufacturer, model, age, or usage. SmartStart® meets EN50155 standards and has met regulatory requirements for many European countries including Germany and the UK. With its ROI through fuel savings of less than 12 months, it’s a smart business decision to invest in this technology.  Additionally, beyond the immediate fuel savings and positive environmental impacts, SmartStart® provides many options that drive operational benefits including load shedding, battery improvements, fleet reporting, remote monitoring and more.

4. What does the future hold for SmartStart® and the continuous stream of innovative and integrated solutions that ZTR strives to be known for?

As locomotive modernization experts, ZTR Control Systems is constantly innovating to make sure SmartStart® and all its products and services provide exceptional returns to the global railways.  ZTR focuses on many key areas of locomotive modernization including:  starting technologies, fuel management solutions, locomotive control systems, connectivity and diagnostics, information management, modernization services, project management and consulting.  With a successful modernization program, railways can significantly extend the operating life of their locomotives, providing a highly compelling option compared to buying new locomotives.

 5. Let’s get personal for a moment, how did you get involved with the company and what do you like about the industry?

My modeling contract doesn’t pay enough (Scott grins wryly).  Seriously, I started at ZTR as an engineering coop student and after completing my schooling, I pursued a career in executive management, returning to the company in 2003.  As for the industry, it’s highly complex and sophisticated and that may not be obvious from the outside.  Technology is critical and innovative, problem-solving solutions are embraced. The railroads are passionate about what they do, the services they provide, and the equipment they use.  There’s a real sense of common purpose amongst the railroads and suppliers to deliver the most efficient and reliable transportation services possible, and to continuously improve the rail network. The future of the global rail industry has amazing potential and ZTR plans to be at the helm.