Assessing and Mitigating Electrical Fires on Transit Vehicles

Transit vehicle fires have safety implications for passengers and employees as well as liability implications for manufacturers, suppliers, and operators. The majority of electrical/arcing fire events lead to a total burn out/loss of the vehicle or serious smoke incidents. Fuses and circuit breakers are not designed for this specific failure mode and traditional fire detection and suppression methods have not proven effective. The problem is further complicated by varying engine compartment configurations, equipment layout within compartments, routing of cables, and continuous changes to vehicles to improve environmental impact, weight, and cost. Although there are some technologies and practices that may prove beneficial or perhaps even significantly reduce the frequency and severity of arcing events, original equipment manufacturers and operators are reluctant to implement such technologies and practices due partially to past difficulties and costs. Some preliminary work has been undertaken to determine methods to produce repeatable failure modes for testing of technologies, and efforts related to fire detection in heavy-duty vehicles are currently under way. While the referenced efforts do not specifically test for arcing conditions, the testing standards could be modified to support arcing conditions. Research is needed to avoid unnecessary interruption of revenue service, passenger injury, and expenditure of operating and capital funds for buses and rail passenger vehicles. The objective of this research is to develop guidance for assessing and mitigating electrical fires on transit vehicles.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Funding: $300000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project C-23

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Transit Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001

    Federal Transit Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Parker, Stephan

  • Performing Organizations:

    Transit Resource Center

    Guilford, CT  United States 
  • Principal Investigators:

    Malec, Ralph

  • Start Date: 20170105
  • Expected Completion Date: 20201231
  • Actual Completion Date: 20201231
  • Source Data: RiP Project 41383

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01622199
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project C-23
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Jan 8 2017 9:57AM