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  • Railroad Workers Call For Regulations Banning One-Person Train Crews
    Posted On: Jul 14, 2016

    By JoAnne Powers, July 15, 2016

    After months of public comment, the Federal Railroad Administration is holding a hearing in Washington, D.C. Friday on proposed regulation of freight trains with one-person crews.  Railroad Workers United is opposing the proposed rule, as it includes loopholes which would allow any and all rail carriers to obtain the FRA’s blessing to run trains with a single employee, even on hazardous materials and oil trains.  J.P. Wright of the RWU says they have been fighting single-person train crews for over a decade:

    [J.P. Wright]: “This is a very serious issue of safety.  You’ve got something that’s potentially 6000 tons, 8000 feet long, going 50 to 60 miles an hour down the track.  Just that right there, regardless of whether or not it’s carrying a HASMAT shipment, just the fact that it’s that big of a piece of machinery, with just one person to be responsible for all of that…I can’t find anybody that would think that was safe.  It makes no sense.”

    The RWU is pushing for federal regulations to prevent any trains with fewer than two crew members:

    [J.P. Wright]: “They, and this is a funny word, but this is what they always say, and this is how they fought it in Iowa when they were trying to get some state legislation passed.  They come and scare the politicians and say, ‘you know you’re getting in the way of collective bargaining because the unions can make this concession if they want.’  And that is true, unfortunately.  [If a section of the union decides they want to make this grand bargain in automation, then we’re in big trouble,] but if the FRA makes legislation that says there will be one certified conductor and one certified engineer on every freight train in this country, then that fight’s over.”

    The AFL-CIO has joined the RWU in opposing the rule change, and Wright applauds them for their involvement:

    [J.P. Wright]: “Normally, when the FRA opens up a public comment section, it doesn’t get much commenting.  We’ve had over a thousand comments on this one piece of federal reg, and that’s impressive.”

    Wright stressed that rail workers welcome automated systems as a safety overlay, but not as an excuse to eliminate two person crews:

    [J.P. Wright]: “The unions a decade ago, even more than a decade ago, said we wanted this…we want these safety overlays, we want this automation to be used as a safety overlay.  Well, now they’re using this safety overlay and saying ‘we don’t need this conductor.’  I can tell you right now, from my own personal experience, there’s no way that you do not want two people on the front of that train.  Even if you’re just talking about national security…communities that need a first, first responder in case of an accident…that’s what we are as railroaders.  We’re the ones that’s there before anybody.  It makes no sense that we would be running that big of a piece of equipment with only one person.”

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