Fla. AFL-CIO opposes remote control operations in letter to FRA Administrator
CLEVELAND, July 28 -- Cindy Hall, the President of the Florida State AFL-CIO, has sent a letter to Acting Federal Railroad Administrator Betty Munro asking for greater scrutiny of remote control operations and stricter regulations.
In her letter, President Hall cites several accidents in Florida that occurred when remote control technology was in use. She also cited the prevalence of hazardous materials in rail cars.
President Hall wrote the letter after David Lavery, Chairman of the BLETís Florida State Legislative Board, spoke before the Executive Committee of the Florida State AFL-CIO. After hearing Chairman Laveryís presentation, the Executive Committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of authorizing President Hall to write the FRA. Chairman Lavery later noted that several Chairmen of Teamster Central Labor Councils (CLC), who attended the Executive Committee meeting, also plan to send their own letters of concern to the FRA.
Hall asks Administrator Munro "to stand up for public safety and apply strict standards with regard to the data collection process of RCL operation."
The following is the text of President Hallís letter:
Federal Railroad Administration
Betty Munro, Acting Administrator
1120 Vermont Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20590
Dear Madam Administrator,
As State President of the Florida AFL-CIO, I must ask for your immediate intervention with the operation of Remote Control Locomotives in our communities throughout the state affecting hundreds of workers and private citizens. Accordingly, Remote Control Locomotive accidents/malfunctions throughout Florida have given us reason to alert our Central Labor Councils which serve each geographical region.
It is a fact that trains carry thousands of tons of Hazardous Materials through out cities and towns daily. The San Antonio, Texas, accident on June 28, 2004, is a testament of what can happen to workers and citizens when toxic cargo is derailed. There have been RCL accidents at every location in Florida since being introduced to the workplace. Without strong regulations in place, workers have been subjected to the whims of rail carriers and their view of how FRA suggested guidelines are practiced in relation to production.
An accident in Tampa operated by RCL and carrying hazardous materials derailed last August, 2003, underneath a busy highway overpass. A loaded tank car on this train barely missed a beam supporting this public highway. Another RCL accident occurred at the very same location in March of this year, again, this time a box car barely missed the highway (Orient Road) support beam. Fortunately, injury was averted in these two incidents. However, this sets a very dangerous precedent for those living and working in areas where this device is used.
Additionally, with the advent of this device being permitted for use over rail crossings, with in and out of rail terminal, in our view, dramatically increases the likelihood of an accident. With regard to Problem Crossing Statistics, which you have published, Florida ranks high on the list with 88 accidents. Moreover, workers and pedestrians are at risk with reports such as: RCL horn malfunctions taking place (Tampa, FL 2002-04) and reports of RCL uninitiated movements (Wisconsin, June 2004).
These concerns are surmounted by the fact that railroads themselves are supplying you with the data needed for the RCL regulatory process. Although we are not opposed to new technology, the RCL issue raises serious safety questions. Are railroads giving you the obscure version of the truth about RCL operation?
In closing, we call upon you to stand up for public safety and apply strict standards with regard to the data collection process of RCL operation. Further, please enact strong regulations and apply enforcement to RCL, training, operation, public crossing protection and movement of hazardous materials. Workers and citizens living throughout Florida and the U.S. are counting on your agency to protect them.
Thank you for your direct attention to this letter.
cc: CLC Presidents
D. Lavery, BLET Florida State Legislative Board Chairman
Wednesday, July 28, 2004