BLE files federal remote-control-related suit against FRA, USDOT (3/25/2002)


Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers on March 22 filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia claiming Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta and Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Allan Rutter failed to live up to their responsibilities in overseeing locomotive remote controls under Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970 and Locomotive Inspection Act, which regulate rail-industry interstate commerce and safety.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway, Union Pacific Railroad, Conrail and Kansas City Southern in January began rolling out locomotive remote-control pilot programs. BLE officials claim that, as part of that implementation, railroads eliminated positions held by locomotive engineers, and now operate locomotives without any employees at the controls inside cabs.

The suit alleges that FRA and U.S. Department of Transportation were fully aware that railroads initiated remote-control operations without locomotive engineers in cabs, and that such operations are within FRA's and USDOT's regulatory jurisdiction.

BLE officials believe microprocessors and remote-control devices are "parts and appurtenances" within the meaning of the Locomotive Act, and subject to regulations ensuring inspections and defect repairs.

Because FRA or USDOT never prescribed required regulations for inspections or tests of remote-control equipment, the agencies have violated their mandatory obligations under the Safety and Locomotive Acts, and increased danger risks for locomotive engineers, other rail workers and the public at large, BLE states in its suit, according to a prepared statement.

BLE is asking the court to grant a permanent injunction requiring the defendants to comply with statutory obligations under the Locomotive Act, including that the federal agencies require inspections, prescribe tests and promulgate regulations applicable to the installation, use and inspection of locomotive remote controls.

Source: Progressive Railroading Daily News