Thanks to advances in technology, specifically in artificial intelligence, improving supply chain visibility is on everyone’s current list of things to do. From complex, end-to-end supply chain to last-mile logistics, transport companies are discovering ways to mitigate risk and improve processes by improving their visibility into operations.  The transport of rail cars is no exception.

Regulatory compliance is an integral part of that visibility and has proven to be challenging in some situations. While all checkpoints can cause problems of compliance, the border poses a particular risk for rail companies.

Making up the train can be a difficult and time-consuming task for a rail company. The rail cars must be placed in a specific order in the train according to what they contain. For example, cars containing dangerous goods in bulk such as gasoline or oil must be placed at a specific location in a train in order to ensure better safety.  These rail cars must have the proper placards according to the type of materials they are transporting. In addition, shippers must provide cargo manifests that are matched to a specific rail car, combining them into a full train manifest.

For rail companies crossing the Canada/U.S. border, one of the greatest risks occurs if the train arrives at a border crossing with an incorrect train manifest or one that does not match the manifests produced by the shippers.  This can result in long delays and even lead to train crews being asked to remove one or more cars where the information is unclear or does not match the rail car description. Obviously, the removal of rail cars from a train has several risk factors associated to it. It means time is being spent on a task other than moving the train towards its destination. Also, while the car is being removed there is a risk of damaging the commodity being transported and there is also a risk of injury to the train crew.

When repetitive infractions on train manifests occur at the border, there is more chance that Customs officers will red-flag a rail company, singling out that company for a more thorough inspection and even a complete stop at the border. The best scenario for a train crossing the border is to be certain of compliance before it arrives at the border, or better still, once it starts its journey. Rail transport visibility will provide that certainty.

Innovative solutions can mitigate many types of risk by ensuring compliance as the train is ready for its journey making sure no unpleasant surprises occur at the border. Nuvoola’s LUKE for Transport Shipment Visibility (TSV) uses a camera as the train is exiting a rail yard to capture all the rail cars as they leave the yard.  The visual captured by the camera is then matched to the train manifest already entered into LUKE and an alert is created if the two documents do not match. A message is then sent to the rail company dispatchers calling for immediate action. It also captures all the placards on the rail cars to ensure compliance with regulations regarding the transport of dangerous goods. It can even detect the speed of the train and send and alert if it does not comply with train dispatching orders as it leaves the rail yard.

Beyond the application of LUKE at the border, train shipment visibility is one of the most impactful ways to ensure compliance and mitigate risk in a number of ways. Not only does it guarantee supply chain fluidity and reliability, it can also lower insurance premiums by limiting injuries and providing proof of intrusion at rail crossings, it can assist in controlling train speeds and it can even detect unexpected stowaways. To learn more about improving your train shipment visibility, visit to learn more.