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Recent advances in wireless sensor networking (WSN) techniques have encouraged interest in the development of vehicle health monitoring (VHM) systems. These have the potential for use in the monitoring of railway signaling systems and rail tracks. Energy efficiency is one of the most important design factors for the WSNs as the typical sensor nodes are equipped with limited power batteries. In earlier research, an energy-efficient cluster-based adaptive time-division multiple-access (TDMA) medium-access-control (MAC) protocol, named EA-TDMA, has been developed by the authors for the purpose of communication between the sensors placed in a railway wagon. This paper proposes another new protocol, named E-BMA, which achieves even better energy efficiency for low and medium traffic by minimizing the idle time during the contention period. In addition to railway applications, the EA-TDMA and E-BMA protocols are suitable for generic wireless data communication purposes. Both analytical and simulation results for the energy consumption of TDMA, EA-TDMA, BMA, and E-BMA have been presented in this paper to demonstrate the superiority of the EA-TDMA and E-BMA protocols.