Locomotive Cab Conditions:
The “Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commissions
Act of 2007,” designed to provide more safety and security on our nations
transit systems, did make some improvements for the rail industry; however, the
death of a
The High Alert 2 rail security report was the second such report by the Teamsters, both of which are the result of studies conducted by the Teamster Rail Conference to gain insight from rail workers into the actual safety and security issues faced by those employees on a day-to-day basis. The High Alert 2 Rail Security Report can be viewed at: http://www.ble-t.org/pr/pdf/ highalert2complete.pdf.
The BLET and the UTU have called on
the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to improve locomotive cab security
and establish climate control regulations in locomotive cabs. In their joint
comments filed on
In their comments about locomotive cab temperatures, the unions explained the negative effect of extreme heat as it causes fatigue and lethargy, slows reaction time, and therefore diminishes safety. They argued that the rule should require newly purchased or reconstructed locomotives, as well as those locomotives already equipped with air conditioning, to be capable of maintaining a climate between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. With regard to cab security, the unions pointed out that the lack of air conditioning in hot weather causes crews to choose between their safety and their security. Crews must be able to close, lock, and seal the doors and windows of the cab in order to protect themselves from the risk of invasion of the operating compartment by unauthorized persons.
Section 405 of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 authorized studies of the locomotive cab environment and empowered the FRA to regulate on this issue based on its findings. On March 17, 2011, BLET National President Dennis Pierce testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroad, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials at a hearing on “Federal Regulatory Overreach in the Railroad Industry: Implementing the Rail Safety Improvement Act.” In that testimony, President Pierce explained to the Committee the relationship of cab temperatures and cab security that occurs when crews are assigned to a locomotive with no functioning air conditioning. President Pierce pointed out that the FRA is considering establishing an upper temperature limit in locomotive cabs and that “the carriers continue to resist movement on this important health and safety issue.”
With regard to the issue of locomotive seats, the BLET and UTU have expressed their extreme disappointment to the FRA for not including anything about locomotive seats in their Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Locomotive Safety Standards. The unions pointed out that “improper and unsafe seats and seat securements have caused many injuries and illnesses to operating crews” and asked the FRA to “accept the scientific facts and offer requirements for specifications of locomotive seats on occupied locomotives.”
Hazmat Contamination Risk: The number of damaged or leaking hazardous materials containers shipped by rail has more than doubled in the past four years. The FRA routinely grants special permission for railroads to transport damaged hazmat containers on mainline tracks to repair facilities. The number of requests from railroads has been steadily increasing over the last 16 years, possibly subjecting rail workers to an unacceptable risk of exposure.
Cell Phone Ban:
Railroad Administration (FRA) regulations on cell phones and other electronic
devices went into effect on
BLET National President Dennis Pierce has warned members nationwide that if they do not comply with the FRA regulations on cell phones and police themselves, they are subjecting themselves to the possibility of the installation of inward-facing cameras on all locomotive cabs. Additionally, the General Chairmen have advised that if an employee is caught with his or her cell phone on, the discipline charge against them is indefensible. In other words, if it is discovered that a crew member’s cell phone was on while the train was moving, that employee is subject to being permanently fired. Crew members’ cell phones must be turned off and stowed any time they are on the train. In a recent fatal rear-end collision involving two BSNF trains, not only were the cell phone records requested by the company for the crews on the trains involved in the collision, but so were the records of the two preceding train crews and the two trailing train crews.
A one-page flyer from the FRA summarizing the new regulations can be found at http://www.ble-t.org/pr/pdf/FRA_Electronic_Devices_Chart.pdf.
Training for Emergency Response Teams:
It is no secret that our nation’s rail system remains vulnerable to terrorist attack. Rail workers, as well as track and bridge workers, do not have adequate security training to know how to thwart a train hijacking, an attack on critical infrastructure, or the planting of a bomb on freight or passenger train cars. Rail lines routinely run through our communities carrying hazardous materials, yet freight rail corporations have failed to provide fire and rescue operators with real-time information about the cargo that is traveling through their cities and towns. Efforts are being taken to ensure that law enforcement and other first responder agencies are trained to respond to any threat or incident on the nation’s railways.
Operation ALERTS (Allied Law Enforcement for Rail and Transit Security) is a collective effort involving law enforcement officers from Amtrak, the Transportation Security Administration, and more than 100 federal, state, local railroad and transit police agencies, to enhance the readiness and communication capabilities of first responder agencies that will protect and defend the railways during any type of emergency or potential threat. Operation ALERTS exercises have been conducted during the last couple of years to evaluate the security of railways in some of the busiest passenger rail corridors in the nation. Activities such as heightened station patrols, increased security presence onboard trains, explosives detection canine sweeps, and random passenger bag inspections at unannounced locations are part of the coordinated effort.
The exercises that have been conducted by these teams in recent years are being reviewed to identify lessons learned as part of a continuous improvement approach, including evaluation of requirements and tactics for effective response to any possible threats or incidents within the railway system.