FRA Requests Information on Automation in the Railroad Industry

In March 2018, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a notice in the Federal Register wherein the agency requested comments from the public regarding railroad automation, and how this technology may impact the railroad industry going forward. This request encompassed the entirety of the railroad industry, and sought input on the impacts of automation on duties performed by operating and non-operating crafts of workers.

The Brotherhood Railway Carmen Division, TCU/IAM signed onto a joint comment with the American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA), the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET/IBT), the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS) and the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART). In addition, the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), of which TCU/IAM is a member, also filed comments as well.

The crux of these comments are safety and job security. Given the scope and potential impact of automation in the railroad industry, the unions maintained that it was the FRA’s responsibility to ensure that any actions undertaken to introduce automation would not jeopardize safety or undermine the jobs connected with rail commerce. FRA’s responsibility is especially important in this context because the implementation of new and untested technology could create untenable risks that will affect the entire national railroad network which moves millions of people and billions of tons of freight each year. In addition, the unions also noted that FRA should take action to promote labor practices which seek to address any job loss and displacement that occurs in these industries. “Regardless of the appeal of these technologies, they must not be deployed at the expense of safety or the railroad workforce,” said Carmen General President Richard Johnson. “While automated technology can assist railroad workers in better performing their jobs, we must be cautious with any technology which purports to entirely replace the skill and knowledge of railroad workers.”

Click here to read the comments submitted by the TTD.

Click here to read the joint labor comments.

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AAR Petitions FRA to Increase Off-Air Time to 24 Hours

The Association of American Railroads (AAR), on behalf of itself and its member railroads, recently petitioned the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for a waiver of compliance from Federal railroad safety regulations which require brake tests to be performed on a train when it has been off-air for four hours. AAR specifically requests that the four-hour off-air restriction be replaced by a 24-hour off-air restriction. AAR maintains that the requested relief will not affect safety.

The Brotherhood Railway Carman (BRC) has joined with four other rail unions to oppose AAR’s petition for waiver because the requested relief could endanger the safety of both railroad workers and the general public. Among other things, the unions have specifically complained to FRA that in certain circumstances the length of time that equipment is removed from a source of compressed air can impact the integrity and operation of the brake system on a vehicle or train.

In particular, the unions noted that extended off-air time is a concern where the potential for vandalism is high due to the location where equipment is left standing. In addition, cold weather situations can cause freeze-ups in train brake systems. AAR itself admits in its petition that many, but not all locomotives, have operable air driers or other systems to remove moisture and contaminants from the air supply system. Furthermore, the equipment is interchanged and does not stay on the Class I railroads as well. “With all the recent accidents in the railroad industry, now is not the time to further compromise safety by increasing the off-air time to 24 hours,” said BRC General President Richard Johnson. “Simply put, it just takes one piece of equipment with part of the braking operations damaged to compromise the entire trainline.”

Click here to read the read the joint comments submitted by the unions.

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Tentative National Agreement Reached by the CBG

A tentative National Agreement has been reached by the six Rail Unions who comprise the Coordinated Bargaining Group (CBG). These six Unions are now in the process of submitting the Tentative Agreement to the specific ratification process of each Union.

This is a major development in a long and contentious bargaining round with the industry. TCU is not part of the CBG however the Agreement will undoubtedly form the basis of any agreement we are able to reach.

Click here to read the letter from TCU President Scardelletti.

Click here to read the update released by the CBG.

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