FRA Certification Helpline: (216) 694-0240

The BLET questions the safety of remote control train operations and demands safety reforms in a sweeping investigative report published by the New York Times on May 27 (via Yahoo, no subscription necessary). This major news story with national implications came about after a recent rash of accidents involving remote control locomotives. The BLET worked with The Times for over a year on the article. Three BLET leaders, Mark Wallace, Jim Louis, and John Esterly are quoted, and many more unnamed BLET members provided background material for the piece.

Railroads are aggressively expanding their remote operations, routinely running remote trains not just inside rail yards but also between them. Many now run through residential and commercial neighborhoods, sometimes carrying hazardous cargo such as petroleum or hydrochloric acid. In addition, railroads are increasing the length of trains operated by remote control. Union Pacific has recently operated remote trains of up to 160 cars, or 1.5 miles long, which is about three times longer than FRA recommendations. It’s a cost-cutting move by the railroads, as remote control operators are lower paid and less trained than certified locomotive engineers.

This story is a must-read for BLET members and all those who are concerned about safety in the railroad industry.

Photo courtesy of Cory Rusch, BLET Division 659