Railroads Roll Ahead With Cloud-Based Crew Management

Article by Alan Zeichick Brand Contributor for Forbes.com

“All aboooooaaaaard!” Whether you love to watch the big freight engines rumble by, or you just ride a commuter train to work, the safety rules around trains are pretty simple for most of us. Look both ways before crossing the track, and never try to beat a train, for example. If you’re a rail operator, however, safety is a much more complicated challenge—such as making sure you always have the right people on the right positions, and ensuring that the crew is properly trained, rested, and has up-to-date safety certifications.


Helping rail operators tackle that huge challenge is CrewPro, the railroad crew management software from PS Technology, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad.

The original versions of this package run on mainframes and still are used by railroads ranging from the largest Class I freight operators to local rail-based passenger transit systems in major US cities.

Those railroad operators use CrewPro to handle complex staffing issues on the engines and on the ground. The demands include scheduling based on availability and seniority; tracking mandatory rest status; and managing certifications and qualifications, including pending certification expirations.

Smaller railroads, though, don’t have the sophisticated IT departments needed to stand up this fully automated crew management system, which is why PS Technology launched a cloud version that saw its first railroad customer online in April.

“There are more than 600 short line railroads, and that is our growth area,” says Seenu Chundru, president of PS Technology. “They don’t want to host this type of software on premises.”

Seenu Chundru is president of PS Technology.COURTESY OF PS TECHNOLOGY

Chundru started the initiative two years ago to create a software-as-a-service cloud version of the crew management software. The result is CrewPro Short Line, available today as a subscription service.

With the original mainframe-based crew management systems still running on premises in the huge railroads’ data centers, and now CrewPro Short Line as a service for smaller operators, the software now manages between 175,000 and 200,000 railroad employees and on-the-train crew every day.

The cloud version of CrewPro runs entirely on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure–a platform chosen, says Chundru, after evaluating cloud offerings from Oracle, Microsoft, and Amazon. The CrewPro Short Line code running within Oracle Cloud Infrastructure is written in Java, using the open source AngularJS framework to power the user experience, and Oracle Database Cloud to store the data.

PS Technology has long been an Oracle customer, Chundru says, naming some of the products in use: Oracle Database Exadata Cloud Service, Oracle Coherence, WebLogic for application containers, and Tuxedo for middleware that communicates with back-end C/C++ code.

With its cloud-based CrewPro Short Line service, PS Technology makes life easy for its smaller customers. PS Technology takes care of data management, backups, software updates, uptime, and availability, while Oracle handles the hardware operation and upkeep. The result: The railroad operators can take care of business instead of worrying about servers and software licenses.

Looking to the future, PS Technology plans to offer new cloud-based applications for crew training and compliance enforcement, such as for drug testing. It also plans to cloud-enable its simulation technology for training crews on how to operate railroad equipment, as well as begin enabling its portfolio of asset management and railroad business management tools.

“Essentially, everything that historically lived in the walled garden of Class I railroad data centers can become a SaaS solution, appropriate for different sized railroads and transits,” Chundru says. “It’s pretty exciting.”

That makes crew management and the business of railroads simpler for every rail operator—and safer for every employee.

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November 2023