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Rail News: Labor

Class Is need to step up training to reduce safety risks, UTU's Thompson says


Last week, United Transportation Union (UTU) International President Paul Thompson sent a letter to all the Class I chief executive officers suggesting ways the large roads can improve safety.

In the letter — copied to Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Boardman, Association of American Railroads President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger, and Class I labor relations officers — Thompson recommends the roads:
• re-evaluate employee training to ensure sufficient length, and that new hires are trained in their assigned territory, experience the most demanding service conditions, and have access to and designated time periods with mentors;
• stop using locomotive remote controls for tasks that exceed the equipment’s design limitations;
• no longer assign new hires to remote control assignments until they gain additional on-the-job experience and become familiar with a railroad environment; and
• re-evaluate operating practices and rule changes, and brake-test requirements.

If followed, the recommendations would reduce safety risks posed by fatigue and the high number of train and engine-service employees with less than a year of experience, Thompson wrote.

“The UTU has been warning for years that if labor and management do not jointly reach a negotiated agreement on solving the fatigue problem, Congress will step in — probably after a deadly calamity — and impose a less efficient solution not to the liking of either of us,” he wrote, according to a prepared statement. “With the strong growth in rail traffic and corresponding acceleration of new hires, training has become as important an issue as fatigue.”

UTU officials are concerned the Class Is are cutting back on training for budgetary reasons.

“Although carriers measure the cost of training —which too frequently leads to cutbacks in length of training so as to save money — carriers fail to measure the cost of insufficient training … tallied in derailments, injuries, fatalities, customer-service failures and lack of retention of new employees,” Thompson wrote.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/11/2005