Sample letter to Congress re: Regulation of Remote
I am writing to you concerning the growing danger of one person locomotive
operation, specifically the use of one person remote control operations (RCO).
On Mother's day of 2009, in Selkirk, NY, locomotive remote control operator
Jared Boehlke was killed while attempting a repair as
the sole member of a yard switching crew. If Boehlke
had not been assigned to work that job alone, there is no doubt that he would
be alive today.
Working a one-man RCO
job is akin to performing a complicated juggling act. The operator must always
be checking his track list to see that he gets the right cars in the right
track. He, alone, must always be operating the correct track switches to see
that his train is going to the right location. Add to that the inability to see
what is ahead of his engine(s) and operating the engine and answering radio
calls. You can readily see that he, alone, is required to juggle many tasks. It
takes a herculean effort to do it safely and deal
with management’s production pressures.
The Federal Railroad Administration has adopted guidelines for RCO
operations, but these guidelines do not actually require the rail carriers to
adopt all the necessary safety procedures and in general do not go far enough
to ensure that this technology is implemented and utilized safely.
Conventional locomotive engineers are federally licensed, have
weeks and weeks of classroom training and months of on-the-job training,
sometimes as long as a year. RCO
operators take only an 80 hour training course in order to receive their
simplified certification. Conventional locomotives must have federal
inspections of air valves and of the air brake system any time components are
changed. There are no such federal regulations for remote control locomotives.
Conventional locomotive operations are governed by strict regulations, while RCO
operations are subject only to FRA “guidelines”.
Regulations, not guidelines are needed. Additionally, the ability
of rail carriers to “cover-up” accidents involving RCO
operations must stop. The carriers must be required to report all accidents
involving any RCO
operation to a single FRA oversight group.
Regulations governing conventional rail operations are in place to
protect not only rail workers but also the public from potentially devastating
accidents. That protection is not in place for any of us as long as rail
carriers are able to avoid complying with vital RCO
safety and operating regulations.
control locomotive technology needs regulation now, and the House
Transportation Committee should direct the FRA to ban one person locomotive operations
entirely, and enact enforceable regulations to make other RCO operations