DB Cargo’s DAC system enters customer use

DB Cargo’s DAC (Digital Automatic Coupling) system entered customer use which will make climate-friendly rail freight transport significantly more powerful and efficient.

“A digital freight train has successfully completed its two-year practical tests. Now the first customers in rail freight transport are set to benefit from the new technology. Our joint experience will then flow into series production,” DB Board Member Sigrid Nikutta announced at the presentation of the train to the EU Commission in Brussels on April 2, 2024.

Together with other European rail freight companies and numerous other stakeholders from the railway industry, DB is involved in the development and Europe-wide introduction of the DAC. DB Cargo runs around 20,000 freight trains a week through 17 EU countries, crossing at least one border on 60 % of all journeys.

Freight wagons are coupled from Spain to Scandinavia using the almost 200-year-old principle of a mechanical screw coupling. At DB Cargo alone, employees have to manually attach the 30-kilogram couplings to the wagons’ iron hangers up to 50,000 times a day. In return, a freight train can replace up to 52 lorries and save 80 to 100 % of CO2 emissions.

With the launch of DB Cargo’s DAC use, “all rail customers benefit from the digitalisation of freight trains. With the DAC and continuous power and data lines, significantly higher speeds are possible, partly because brakes can be controlled electronically – as has long been the case with passenger trains” the rail freight operator says.

Freight trains, whose speed is currently limited to 120 km/h, will be able to adapt much better to the rhythm and speed of passenger transport with the DAC. This leads to more capacity in the network and only with the digitalisation and automation of rail freight transport will it be possible to transfer more goods from road to rail.

In June 2020 pilot project commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure started to demonstrate, test and approve digital automatic coupling for rail freight transport. Since then, various tests have been performed to implement the digital coupling, most including at DB Systemtechnik’s climatic chamber in Minden.

The DAC4EU consortium (Digital Automatic Coupling for Europe) is the organisation behind the testing of the DAC. It is comprised of seven partners (DB Cargo, Ermewa, GATX Rail Europe, Rail Cargo Austria, SBB Cargo and VTG) under the leadership of DB AG. The German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure has provided EUR 13 million in financing for the project.

Currently, almost half a million freight wagons are rolling on Europe’s rails and they are still coupled by hand and are unable to establish power or continuous data lines.

Share on: