Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Safety message: Managing your rolling stock assets

ONRSR is highlighting some of the key good practices and requirements for effective management of freight and passenger rolling stock.

Safety message - Maintain rolling stock assets

ONRSR conducts regulatory activities, including audits, inspections, and site visits, across multiple operators and sectors. In conducting these regulatory activities, ONRSR often observes and identifies both good and poor safety practices.

In this safety message, ONRSR highlights some of the good practices for maintaining rolling stock. Rolling stock is what many Rail Transport operators (RTOs) are required to manage and maintain safely, so far as is reasonably practicable - as per the Rail Safety National Law.

While not exhaustive and given the range of operational environments within the Australian rail industry, the following should be noted.

RTOs must consider a range of factors, including the likelihood of the hazard and the degree of harm to determine what management practices are reasonably practicable to implement.

Refer to the ONRSR Guideline – Meaning of duty to ensure safety so far as is reasonably practicable SFAIRP for more information).

The following is a non-exhaustive list of key aspects and information a good safety management system should contain regarding effective maintenance of rolling stock.

For simplicity, the key details have been split across six key areas:

  • Asset details
  • Indicative risks and controls
  • Maintenance standards
  • Systems and procedures / for planning and performing maintenance activities
  • Inspection records
  • Defect management

> Asset details

The foundation for effective and safe management of rolling stock assets is accurate and up to date details about the rolling stock asset itself. Information that asset details can cover includes but is not limited to:

  • Loading, operation and maintenance manuals
  • Rolling stock diagrams or data sheets
  • Records of modifications performed on rolling stock
  • Component tracing records of major components such as wheel sets and bogies
  • Network registrations

ONRSR recognises that in some cases asset details may not be available due to the age of rolling stock or changes in ownership. RTOs must conduct risk assessments in such cases. RTOs should ensure that wherever possible asset details are not ‘lost to history’.

> Indicative risks and controls

Documenting the risks and controls for rolling stock demonstrates that key risks are being monitored and managed effectively. The critical safety risks relating to rolling stock include:

  • Derailments or collisions due to:
    • Undetected wheel defects or suspension system faults
    • Brake failure
    • Exceeding speed limits
    • Rolling stock exceeding loads and loading gauges, and/or impacting on fixed infrastructure
    • Failure of vigilance control systems or other driver safety systems
  • Fires caused by rolling stock either lineside or on-board rolling stock.
  • Passengers caught in doors or between trains and platforms

Each of these risks should have controls in place to ensure the rolling stock is safe for workers and passengers so far as is reasonably practicable. While controls will be different depending on the type of rolling stock and the network it operates on, controls generally fall into one of the following categories:

  • Ensuring safe access and egress to and from rolling stock both under normal and emergency conditions
  • Prevention and mitigation of fires and explosions onboard rolling stock
  • Prevention and mitigation of rolling stock-initiated lineside fires
  • Effective on-board train communications systems
  • Maintaining clearances between rolling stock and other railway infrastructure
  • Ensuring vehicle-track dynamics remain within safe limits
  • Driver monitoring and alertness systems
  • Braking and train protection systems
  • Collision impact mitigation /crash worthiness
  • Freight management systems - carriage of general goods and dangerous goods
  • Systems for loading/unloading at terminals
  • Procedures for securing loads during transit
  • Train conspicuity systems, driver visibility and safety/emergency systems

> Maintenance standards

Standards can define the criteria that rolling stock is maintained to, the interfaces to allow safe operation on a given network or alternatively the process for developing an effective maintenance regime. Typically operators would adopt industry standards or develop their own internal standards when necessary.

  • Australian Standards e.g. RISSB/AS 75XX series standards. Although these standards usually focus on the functional or design requirements, they often include sections devoted to rolling stock maintenance. Most RISSB standards include a risk register that identifies the risks to safety that are managed through adoption of the standard.
  • Rolling stock operators with large fleets of different types of rolling stock may develop standards to ensure there is consistency in the way their differing fleets are managed.
  • Rail Infrastructure Managers develop interface standards to define how rolling stock can safely operate on their network. Compliance to these standards is usually a condition for granting access to a network.
  • EN 50126 “The Specification and Demonstration of Reliability, Availability, Maintainability and Safety (RAMS) Generic RAMS Process” provides a process where the operational constraints of a railway can be identified and developed into design requirements for rolling stock.

> Systems and procedures

Procedures underpin the overall process for maintaining rolling stock. Information that procedures can cover includes, but is not limited to:

  • Competency requirements for rolling stock maintainers. Where a maintenance task requires a specific competency, such as needing to be performed by a licenced electrical worker, this should be documented in the procedure.
  • Defined responsible parties for all maintenance tasks. This is particularly important when an operator hires or leases rolling stock or subcontracts maintenance.
  • Documented scheduled inspection types, frequency and methodology. For new rolling stock this information should come from the rolling stock supplier/manufacturer. However, these procedures should be reviewed by the rolling stock operator regularly to ensure they remain fit for purpose.
  • References to works instructions, checklists and forms for each inspection type.
  • New technologies. For example, when implemented on a railway, maintenance procedures should be reviewed and updated if necessary. An example of this is way side condition monitoring technology.
  • Specific procedures for post incident inspection or testing as well as for rolling stock returning to service.
  • Condition monitoring and fault/defect reporting.
  • Maintenance activity tracing, sign-off and handover back to operations.

> Inspection records

Planned or scheduled inspections are important as they provide the opportunity to perform preventative maintenance to reduce the likelihood of a defect that has an impact on safety.

  • Scheduled inspections may be based on time intervals, distance travelled intervals or on data from condition monitoring systems.
  • Operators should balance the scheduling of major inspections and overhauls to ensure the whole fleet does not fall due at the same time.
  • When inspections are undertaken by contractors, rolling stock operators should ensure the work is completed to a satisfactory standard.
  • Defects are often found during scheduled inspections therefore time allowances should be built into planned inspections to allow for rectification of defects.

> Defect rectification

Defect rectification management is about ensuring defects or rolling stock faults are accurately recorded, criticality assessed, tracked, monitored and actioned, ensuring traceability from detection to rectification. Information that defect rectification and management can cover includes, but is not limited to:

  • Minimum operating standards that specify what action must be taken when a fault occurs and the time period that it must be rectified in.
  • Monitoring faults and defects on a fleet, and using the data collected to identify trends.
  • When repairs are undertaken by contractors, rolling stock operators should ensure the work is completed to a satisfactory standard.
  • When trends are detected, operators should use appropriate tools to determine the root cause.


Following this advice will have additional benefits as well as improved operational safety including:

  • Better use of resources, with more programmed repairs and fewer reactive repairs.
  • More efficient management of rolling stock assets and understanding of on-going resource requirements including future asset replacements.
  • Fewer overdue inspections or repairs.
  • Better risk-based responses to repairs.

As a result of this safety message, operators may benefit from reviewing their SMS. The following list includes, but is not limited to, those systems and procedures likely to be most relevant for review:

  1. Technical Maintenance Plans and Strategic Asset Management Plans
  2. Management of change process
  3. Monitoring processes and procedures
  4. Defect management systems
  5. Competencies and training processes
  6. Corrective action systems and procedures

Please see ONRSR Guideline - Safety Management System Guideline for more information.

The Safety Management Guideline provides accredited rail transport operators, and those seeking accreditation, with guidance on the legislative requirements for safety management systems and what the National Rail Safety Regulator (NRSR) looks for when assessing safety management systems, and how to prepare a safety management system that complies with the legislative requirements.

All RTOs managing railway track may benefit from reviewing this guideline.

A comprehensive collection of ONRSR Safety Messages is available to view here.

Last updated: Dec 14, 2023, 9:10:02 AM