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<< Rail News Home: Mechanical

5/14/2004    Freight News

Rail News: Mechanical

FRA safety audit: Results show remote-control locomotive operations cause fewer accidents, injuries

Remote-control locomotive (RCL) operations have caused fewer accidents and employee injuries compared with conventional yard operations, according to the results of a preliminary Federal Railroad Administration safety audit released yesterday.

Between May 1 and Nov. 30, 2003, the RCL train accident and employee injury rates were 13.5 percent and 57.1 percent lower, respectively, compared with conventional switching rates

"This data shows that RCL technology has great potential to reduce train accidents and dramatically increase worker safety," said FRA Administrator Allan Rutter in a prepared statement.

"Interim Report: Safety of Remote Control Locomotive Operations" also found nearly all accidents or incidents involving RCL operations to date were caused by human error.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has asked the FRA to assess RCL's impact on rail safety. Within one year, the administration plans to issue a final report, which will contain additional findings, recommendations on best practices, and proposed legislative or regulatory action.

Meanwhile, the number of counties and communities that are skeptical about RCL safety continues to grow. South Salt Lake City, Utah, recently passed a resolution opposing remote-controlled locomotives because of the high volume of hazardous materials that pass through the city, according to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

To date, 39 cities and 15 counties have adopted resolutions banning certain aspects of RCL operations.

"As long as railroads continue to operate remote-control trains in an unregulated environment, and as employees continue to be injured and accidents continue to happen because of this safety oversight, the BLET will continue in its efforts to closely monitor the situation and press for enforceable federal safety regulations," BLET officials said in a statement released late Friday.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.