FRA Freezes 1-man Operations
Administration considering nationwide ban on solo crews and remote control of engines
Reprinted with Permission from TrafficWorld 1/20/97, Republication prohibited without authorization from copyright holder
The Federal Railroad Administrator has told Wisconsin Central it will not be allowed to expand its one-man operations and that it may even have to halt some. The regional is using one-man crews in four situations.
The agency also has informed WC it won't bc allowed to begin using remote control locomotives in its yards though the line will apparently be permitted to continue using remote-controlled engines for switching in conjunction with one-man operations.
FRA also plans to issue a safety advisory notice in the Federal Register to prohibit nationwide use of remote control and one-person crews except under limited circumstances.
FRA's action, communicated in a letter from Administrator Jolene Molitoris to WC President Edward A Burkhardt early this month, is an outgrowth of WC's plans to double its one-man operations from four to eight. The United Transportation Union filed a request for an emergency order to block the expansion and, at FRA's behest, WC has held its expansion of one-man operations in abeyance since last June.
FRA held two days of hearings on one-man and remote operations in Appleton, Wis., in early December. The hearings brought witnesses from as far afield as Great Britain, Germany and New Zealand.
Burkhardt was in England last week, tending to his company's interest in rail operations there. WC officials will be meeting later this month with FRA on the one-man and remote issue.
In her letter to Burkhardt, Molitoris said the agency "remained vitally concerned" with such issues surrounding one-man operations as employee fatigue, disabled engineers, emergency assistance for engineers and train length. Though FRA's communication to WC did not raise the issue, a rulemaking proceeding on one-man and remote operations that could effectively eliminate adding such operations for years is a possibility.
In a letter to his officers, UTU International President Charles Little expressed disappointment FRA had not banned all one-man operations. "But at least FRA didn't just OK them as they would in the past," wrote Little.
In fact, the UTU president described the FRA action as "the best result we're ever gotten from the FRA on a safety issue, after a railroad had put an operation in effect. This would not have happened without President Clinton and without the efforts of FRA Administrator Jolene Molitoris."
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