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Cameras Are Not the Answer

Statement by National President Dennis R. Pierce

CLEVELAND, December 13 – Dennis Pierce, National President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a Division of the Teamsters Rail Conference, issued the following statement concerning the suggestion in the media in the aftermath of the tragic Metro North accident that placing cameras in the cabs of all locomotives will somehow be a deterrent to fatigue:

“In the wake of the horrific accident on Metro North Commuter Railroad, there have been several public calls for the installation of inward facing cameras in the cabs of all locomotives, which have suggested that videotaping locomotive engineers in the workplace will somehow reduce fatigue in the railroad industry. Nothing could be further from the truth, or could lead us further away from preventing another tragic accident. Cameras are essentially an accident investigation tool; they are not an accident prevention tool. Installation of cameras will provide the public nothing more than a false sense of security.

“There are many factors that contribute to fatigue in our industry, but one thing is certain; locomotive engineers are true professionals who do their best to report for work fully rested. The fact of the matter is that engineers do not intentionally report to work fatigued by their own choice.

“If we are to learn from fatigue related accidents in the railroad industry we must look at the actual causes of fatigue and not assume that training a camera on a fatigued engineer will somehow deter him or her from being tired, an assumption that borders on absurdity as it is not based in medical science. The only things in the cab of a moving locomotive that are not machines are the locomotive engineers and trainmen assigned to that locomotive, who are human beings.

“Engineers already place life and limb at risk when they are compelled to work tired, and filming them provides no deterrent to the risks we already face. To the contrary, these cameras will create yet another source of distraction from the engineer’s work tasks. More than a century of research establishes that monitoring workers actually reduces the ability to perform complex tasks, such as operating a train, because of the distractive effect. But there are steps that can be taken that will truly reduce the effect of fatigue on safety in the railroad industry, and safeguard against those occasions where fatigue overwhelms an engineer while operating a moving locomotive.

“No locomotive engineer who attempts to call off from working due to fatigue should be subjected to disciplinary retaliation for so called “poor attendance.” The majority of the nation’s engineers in freight service, who operate side by side on the same tracks as passenger and commuter engineers, work unscheduled jobs. They are “on call” 24/7, 365 days a year and receive as little as an hour and half notice to report to work a twelve hour shift, in many cases with no reliable advance predictability as to their reporting time and after already being awake for twelve to sixteen hours. No camera can realistically affect the human fatigue created by such an unpredictable work schedule.

“I call today on all railroads that are currently suspending and/or terminating engineers for taking time off due to fatigue, because they cannot with certainty be rested for an unknown on-duty time, to stop this counter intuitive behavior immediately. Pressuring engineers to work tired through threat of the loss of their jobs is contributing to fatigue in the railroad industry and all but ensures that another fatigue related accident will happen.

“Equally important is the implementation of Positive Train Control technology and I again call on the railroad industry, the Federal Railroad Administration and Congress to see that this technology is implemented before another avoidable accident occurs. This technology would prevent a tired engineer from entering any speed restricted area too fast, and would prevent a fatigued engineer from passing a meeting point with a crowded passenger or commuter train. How many lives must be lost, and what cost in human life will this great nation tolerate, before the nations’ railroads are required to take the steps available and necessary to truly protect their employees and the public in general from these avoidable accidents?

“The true test of any solution is in its ability to prevent an accident. On the one hand, Positive Train Control will prevent these horrific accidents and the toll they take on those affected. On the other hand, should another accident occur due to Congress delaying the now required 2015 implementation of PTC, a camera in the cab would merely capture an image of the avoidable carnage that follows, but only in the unlikely event that the camera and recording apparatus is not destroyed in the accident. The problem that confronts us is obvious, and cameras in the cab are no solution to that problem.”

Friday, December 13, 2013
bentley@ble-t.org

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