As such, Europe is the last continent with no automatic coupling system in rail freight transport. It could, however, be the first continent with a digital automatic coupling system.
Automatic coupling systems were introduced at the beginning of the 20th century to increase occupational safety and reduce shunting accidents, in particular (e.g. in the USA). In the mid-20th century, just when the first attempts were being made in Europe to migrate to AC, the focus was on increasing productivity during the coupling procedure. However, the technology available at that time only allowed for the automation of the coupling process. Additional work steps that needed to be performed by marshalling staff prior to a train’s departure could not be optimised. Ultimately, it was financial reasons that prevented AC from being introduced. In the 21st century, digital automatic coupling is considered a key component in the digitalisation and automation of rail freight transport.
1 For more information on the global distribution of automatic coupling systems, cf. BMDV, ‘Development of a concept for the EU-wide migration to a digital automatic coupling system (DAC) for rail freight transportation’, 2020, correct as at: 27 November 2020.