Integrating AI-based automatic translation of maintenance reports to ease international fleet management

Post by Ashley Argüello, Digital Marketing Manager at Railnova
January 25, 2023

The railway industry has come a long way from the manually written notes and comments on driver logbooks with the introduction of its digital counterpart. As information can now flow digitally between stakeholders, language differences and auto-translation have become the next challenge. And with it also comes the need to streamline communications for international railway companies.

BLS Cargo, a Swiss-based rail freight provider specialising in trans-alpine transports, has a presence in Switzerland, Italy, Germany and Belgium. They quickly took notice of this challenge. BLS Cargo is keen to stay on top of technology, and pushing their reliability forward is one of their trademarks. To work on the efficiency of key information transmission between drivers, BLS Cargo deployed a digital logbook and a digital corrective event notification based on Railnova software. However, it became clear that a translation feature was necessary for added effectiveness.

Drivers report defects in their native language

The main focus of the digital logbook’s initial project was related to BLS Cargo’s ECM and safety certification to ensure full traceability of communication regarding:

  • Corrective event descriptions
  • Restriction descriptions in the digital logbook
An example of the digital logbook, that enables auto-translation

Digital logbook

Traffic control and drivers operate in each country’s local language for safety reasons. This has long been a barrier to efficiency for international operators in European railway.

As an international railway operator, BLS Cargo recognises the potential miscommunication and the inefficiency caused by language barriers. They identified this as a significant risk that needed to be addressed through the use of high-quality automatic translation technology. This is especially important for smooth and efficient communication when locomotives are travelling internationally.

Automatic translation in one click to assist human decision-making

As a crucial aspect of railway opera, all drivers and security stakeholders must clearly understand two critical pieces of information: locomotive defects observed and restrictions imposed by the ECM. These details are vital for drivers to determine what is safe and compliant. To facilitate this, BLS Cargo implemented the use of Railnova’s digital logbook. This allows for easy access and visibility of all relevant events and restrictions to all stakeholders, including those using mobile devices and tablets.

BLS Cargo sought to explore the possibility of incorporating automatic translation into their operations, recognising the importance of ensuring thorough understanding among all team members. In response to this need, the decision to integrate advanced AI-based translation was made. This technology was embedded into Railnova’s existing solution via DeepL’s Pro API. This addition streamlines and promotes a deeper understanding of relevant information among all team members.

The integration of AI-based translation technology within the digital logbook enables drivers to create notifications in their native language while ensuring that readers can access the translation in their preferred language with a single click. The system currently supports eight languages: English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, and Portuguese.

Visual example of a practical case using automatic translation within the digital logbook

Example of how automatic translation works when creating and describing a corrective event

This integration serves to decrease the possibility of errors. However, it should be considered as a support tool for decision-making rather than a definitive solution. It is important to note that the ultimate responsibility for decision-making still lies with human operators. The fleet manager retains the ability to review the original defect report and confirm decisions with the driver. Thereby ensuring accountability and accuracy.

If you also want to deliver value to your organisation based on data insights or streamline and smoothen fleet management and ECM communications in your team, get in touch with us to discuss solutions that fit your needs. To fill out the form, click here or visit

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