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Rail News: Labor

Locomotive remote controls should be regulated or eliminated, AFL-CIO transportation department says

The AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department (TTD) recently passed a resolution calling for an end to remote-controlled train operations.

Federal Railroad Administration's locomotive remote control guidelines don't require railroads to adopt all necessary safety procedures, or go far enough to ensure the technology is implemented and safely operated, according to the resolution. TTD officials believe FRA should develop enforceable safety regulations.

"It should now be clear, if there was any doubt, that remote control locomotives are dangerous and must be regulated or eliminated," the resolution states.

In September 2003, the Senate Commerce Committee required FRA to conduct a thorough safety audit of locomotive remote controls, which the administration expects to complete in early 2005.

"We hope that, this time, the agency will address the problems that transportation labor has long identified," the resolution states.

However, officials from TTD, and AFL-CIO affiliates the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) division of the Teamsters Rail Conference are skeptical of the audit because FRA enables railroads to self-report accidents — giving roads too much leeway in determining which accidents are reported — which could yield inconclusive results, according to a prepared statement.

"I applaud the TTD for its actions. It's time someone stood up for these workers instead of meekly giving in to every carrier demand," said BLET National President Don Hahs. "The safety of all railroad workers should be Priority One. But that priority is difficult to achieve with 'minimum guidelines.'"

TTD represents 35 unions in the railroad, transit, trucking, aviation, longshore, maritime and other transportation industries.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/11/2004