FRA: One-Person crews allowed

chooch.42 Nov 25, 2009

  1. chooch.42

    chooch.42 TrainBoard Member

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    Hello all. As a retired railroad engineman, this is an unsettling decision by the industry's prime regulating agency. The loss of positions for operating craft employees to accomplish cost savings for the carriers may soon I fear, result in danger, injury, and peril for rail employees and the public. The FRA seems to be abdicating it's responsibility to insure the safety of anyone on or near railroad property to the financial benefit of the corporations. Here's a link to the Railway Age article, for your consideration. http://www.railwayage.com/breaking-news/fra-refuses-to-prohibit-one-person-train-crews.html
    I think I'm pleased not to be working on the rails any more. :tb-sad: Bob C.
     
  2. friscobob

    friscobob Staff Member

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    I am aware that on some shortlines and industrial switching operations, it's being done by one person. At the ConAgra plant in Sherman, a trainman wearing a remote control pack operates the switcher at a walking speed, coupling up to covered hoppers to move them in & out of the unloading bays. He also lines up the switches and lifts the uncoupling levers on the cars & locomotive.

    On the TNER, trains were run by one person in the locomotive cab while a second person followed along on the highway, going ahead of the train & aligning switches.

    I'm not that convinced that remote-control operation of locomotives is all that safe, and that one person out there in the yard or on the road could set himself up for disaster.
     
  3. Kevin Anderson

    Kevin Anderson TrainBoard Member

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    Yes this is a very dangerous practice.
     
  4. acsxfan1

    acsxfan1 TrainBoard Member

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    Never worked on a railroad .. but .. is it really a safety issue, or a union job protection protest under the guise of safety? I see one man remote operations where I live all the time .. and in certain instances, it appears pretty safe to me.

    Thoughts?
     
  5. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

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    How long has Amtrak been running one person in the loco? What has occurred as a result, both positive and negative?
     
  6. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    My take on it is not union job protection at all, but a not so thinly veiled attempt by the carriers to relieve themselves of culpability and liability in accident situations. Who do you blame when your computer controlled train is involved in an accident? There was certainly no agent or employee of the company responsible for it. Blame it on cyber malfunction! You dont think some fatal incident can occur under remote control train operation? Have you forgotten the Washington D.C. Metro accident this past summer? The "caretaker" operator had to override the auto pilot and place the train into emergency. How many more fatalities would have occured had she not been there to do that?How much damages can be collected cuz someones computer malfunctioned? How can the carrier(s)be held liable if it can't be determined the malfunction was caused by negligence of the carrier(s)? We would be uncapping Pandora's legendary container legally with scenarios like that!
    I dont see how the carriers can prove that crewless operation is any safer than with a human at the controls, Railroads have had humans operating their trains for way more than 150 years, and there have been fatal accidents while under their control. There are also recorded incidents where humans were able to avoid serious or fatal accidents where there were mechanical failures or other scenarios that were overcome by human action. You dont hear about those do you? Remote control operation in "real time' conditions is less than 20 years old. I know for a fact that the BNSF has had some non-fatal, no personal injury "incidents" in their remote control operations. Those have been
    chalked up to "unfamiliarity with equipment" or some other silly concocted canard like that. This "unfamiliarity" was performed by operators who were well trained AND certified
    and had considerable experience in RCO. I guess the "unfamiliarity" gremlin caused the
    controls to jam or be unresponsive! Of course, you wont get this info from the BNSF.
    I think those of us who have rail and rail labor friendly legislators had best begin writing them about this. OH! you might ask them their thoughts about the Howard Street tunnel and if RCO would make it any safer!
    I'm lucky, my representative and senators happen to be rail and rail labor friendly. A former senator of my state now holds a very influential position in the Federal government. I think he might lend an ear to your legislators!
    You also might want to ask your friends and neighbors if they dont mind that remote control trains carrying chemicals and substances that could eradicate human life in a 1/2 mile radius or more will be traveling through their neighborhoods. I'd like to read some of the comments!
    Grab yourself a pen and some paper and write the following...
    Dear Senator(his/her name here followed by your thoughts on the subject)
    OR
    Dear Representative(his/her name her followed by your thoughts on the subject)
    Place that filled out sheet of paper in an envelope addressed to the Senator or Congressman(woman)'s address in Washington D.C. Place a stamp on the envelope and drop it in the mailbox.

    CT
     
  7. chooch.42

    chooch.42 TrainBoard Member

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    Wasn't it just a little while ago a Cal-Trans Commuter (only one person in the loco cab) allegedly ran a Stop signal and head-on-ed a UP freight (with at least 2 crew)? I believe AMTRAK limits one-person trains for duty hours (less than the Hours Of Service Law), 6 or 8 hours - longer trips are to have 2 up front (?). Running passenger is not taxing/boring/tiring/distracting in the same way freight is (though no less demanding !). Skills and methods differ with train size and weight, grade and curve profile, track condition, including speed restriction, crossings, etc. The engineer is NEVER off duty, as he is the only member with a Federal license to operate, and thus, ultimately responsible for the safety of the train, it's contents, and everything and everyone in proximity to his route of passage...for a statutory 12 hours. How long can anyone exercise concentration and maintain focus under this kind of responsibility without a break, or even the aid and company of another brain and pair of eyes. The incentive for the carriers is to again, reduce crew numbers, effectively halving expense for the train, and doubling the productivity of each employee at NO COST. They've probably weighed the financial gain against the risk of money outlay for damage and death caused by wrecks/derailments, and found the balance in their favor (like Ford, and the Pinto fuel tanks). It's just my view, but I've got 33years of experience to back the opinion. We will ALL pay for this in some way, if this is allowed to continue without proper technological development and application. I hope that prediction never comes home to any of you. Bob C.
     
  8. fireball_magee

    fireball_magee TrainBoard Member

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    Remotes have issues. many sites to prove that.Ihave run them but I had a field guy with me. So all we did was eliminate a crew memeber.

    Amtrak is a whole different animal. Not a ONE man crew at all. Whenever the carrier cites "Amtrak has one man in the cab" so? they also have a train crew in the cars.Common practice is the engineer calls signals on the radio and the conductor calls him when close to stops. So its not a ONE MAN crew.They hated me bringing that up everytime. but its a fact. ETMS isnt working right, remotes have cause accidents and deaths.

    I wont work by myself. Period.No its not a union thing I like another set of eyes in the cab not to mention a person that can take over if I have a medical issue.
     
  9. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    OK, I am not a railroader, so I can't speak to knowledge from the field, but aren't you people misrepresenting the FRA here? They haven't washed their hands of anything.
    They just aren't ready to prohibit 1 man train crews. That can hardly be called an invitation to slash road crews and move everyone over to single person switching.
    I have no doubt in my mind that there are scenarios out there where a single crewman is sufficient. The FRA is simply not closing the book on the matter, they are allowing the technology to advance and see where technology and actual data take them rather than making an emotional and perhaps under informed decision.

    Also, to clarify, it wasn't a Cal-Train train, it was an LA Metrolink commuter train and as was repeated here already, one man in the cab doesn't equal one man crew. He was supposed to be getting his signals repeated back to him by the conductor. It was a matter of gross negligence on the part of the engineer not paying attention to signals while busy texting some local kids he was friends with (at least that's the story that's been released) The conductor should have put the train in emergency when responses didn't occur. He did not do that.
     
  10. doofus

    doofus TrainBoard Supporter

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    Ummmm, there was no other person in the cab with the Metrolink engineer.............
     
  11. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    Did I say otherwise?
     
  12. BnOEngrRick

    BnOEngrRick TrainBoard Member

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    CSX currently has 1 man remote crews in yards. Remote crews do not have the same productivity as "conventional" crews. It's all about money. In terminals where remotes are majority, CSX has diverted work to other terminals in order to make the remotes "work", meaning prove that they can get the work done.

    What really irks me (and many others) is when a remote operator sits in the engineer seat in the cab of the locomotive they're operating.
     
  13. OC Engineer JD

    OC Engineer JD Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I have operated many trains by myself with a 'utility man' driving to meet me at the next stop. Sometimes, if it's a through freight, I have been dropped off at the train and the guy drives back and I run the 90 mile trip alone. (And this is over the steepest grades in AL.)
    Safe.....not at all. Not all the engines have working alerters, which would stop the train if something should happen to me and I don't push the button when I should.
    Several engineers have started refusing to do this since a conductor was fired for not noticing a car derail in his train for a couple 100 ft. If a man was fired for not noticing this while moving at 25mph through several S curves, he must be needed there to constantly look back. (We also have started refusing to use locomotives without mirrors too.)
    Railroads will continue to do what they can get away with until someone is killed or injuried and then they will change the way something is done.
    Can you run a locomotive safely or a remote by yourself.....yes. Is it safe to do so....no.
    I was once told by a manager...'You can work safely in an unsafe place.' For the most part it's true. But why take that chance with someones life when there is a safer way to do the job?
    And I agree with Rick.....if your going to run a remote engine sitting in the engineers seat, why use the remote at all?????
     
  14. doofus

    doofus TrainBoard Supporter

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    There never was another person in the cab with the engineer to relate signals or put the train in emergency. He was operating as a "one man crew". It was only after immense public outcry and numerous politicians trying to secure their next term in office did Metrolink reluctantly and only temporarily put another person in the cab!!!!
     
  15. doofus

    doofus TrainBoard Supporter

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    Agreed!!! It was one of the biggest lobbying points about RCO!! The reduction in injuries to the engineer was to be one of the most valuable asset of the remote control units. So how is it safer for a remote operator sitting in the exact same seat with a large clunky box strapped to his chest to be less subject to injury????
     
  16. Flash Blackman

    Flash Blackman Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Engineer Injury?

    How does the engineer get injured when he is in the locomotive during switching?
     
  17. Kevin Anderson

    Kevin Anderson TrainBoard Member

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    Well for one with RCO, no engineers are running the engine only conductors in most cases. The carriers are using RCO to remove jobs.
     
  18. Flash Blackman

    Flash Blackman Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    You mean that the way to reduce injuries to engineers was to have them not be in the engine?

    If that statement is correct, that is weak. It's like reducing injuries to passengers in car wrecks by not having them be in the car.

    Am I correct in this interpretation?
     
  19. doofus

    doofus TrainBoard Supporter

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    By removing the engineer from the seat, there is nobody there to get injured. Or so they say. Once the weather got cold, the carriers petitioned the FRA to allow RCO operators to sit in the engineer's chair out of the elements. The carriers promised to have the operators only use the box to run...........And how on earth can a person standing on an end platform all whilst operating be out of harm's way?

    A poorly maintained cab is way to get injured or just a poorly maintained switch engine can cause injury. Not to mention all that goes on during switching operations.....
     
  20. BOK

    BOK TrainBoard Member

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    I have been a locomotive engineer for a number of years and as part of my current, responsibilities I train and test both engineer candidates and experienced ones. I have also run a lot of trains as a single engineer and I miss the "other pair of eyes" in the cab.
    Although I have not operated remotes, I do believe there is a definite safe place for them and will reserve my comments regarding their operation for another time other than to add the following. There are no federal laws restricting their use and I do believe they offer a cost savings for very marginally profitable operations in order to allow service to continue.

    Regarding the incident out in California, it was determined by the NTSB that the full responsibility for the wreck was the Metro engineer's lack of attention due to text messaging and failure to stop for a red, absolute, signal and a dual control switch lined and locked against his movement.
    As information, the conductor on the UP freight which had authority on the main track which the Metrolink train violated, had just minutes before the collision texted messaged on his phone and there were two men in the cab on that train. In any case, lack of attentive behavior in the cab can lead to an incident no matter how many folks are in the cab. In fact, this is one reason why I am so against allowing any one (railfans included) other than the crew or operating official in the cab of an operating locomotive. Any form of distraction can lead to disaster and this we cannot allow.

    From our house to yours, Have a SAFE, Happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

    Barry
     

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