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BNSF Railway Co. and the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) Union's Transportation Division recently reached a tentative agreement that would enable trains equipped with positive train control (PTC) to be operated solely by one locomotive engineer without an onboard conductor between certain territories in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest.If ratified by SMART Transportation Division members, the pact would cover about 60 percent of BNSF's system. The agreement would not apply to trains carrying large volumes of hazardous materials, including crude oil and ethanol, according to BNSF.The agreement "deals comprehensively" with the major issues facing rail ground-service employees in the 21st century, BNSF officials said in an emailed statement."The tentative agreement, subject to union membership ratification, will allow for locomotive engineers to operate freight trains with the remote support of a new master conductor, instead of a conventional onboard conductor on BNSF routes where PTC is in use," they said. "The agreement will enhance safety by providing a more predictable work schedule with assigned on-duty times, and specific territories for master conductors to monitor and assist as necessary."
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