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Early steps have been taken to fix Union Pacific's glaring problems in the days after the FRA's investigation into railroad's operating practices.
The following measures are the result of a five-hour meeting between FRA Associate Administrator For Safety James Schultz and UP President Jerry Davis.
·UP established a safety hotline, (888) 860-5511, which workers should call to report their safety concerns. UP officials stress that the hotline is strictly confidential.
· Also, at the recommendation of the FRA, UP created a new position to deal specifically with safety issues. Bob Naro was recently appointed vice-president of safety and risk management by the UP board of directors, and he reports directly to UP President Jerry Davis.
· The FRA also instructed UP to reevaluate its training programs for quality and effectiveness. Programs for all new hires and existing employees will be evaluated, including dispatching, all running trades workers and field managers.
In terms of dispatching, UP has recently hired 19 new dispatchers who are currently in training. It was also recommended that UP periodically evaluate their dispatchers for stress and excessive workloads, and that the dispatchers become more familiar with the territories they cover.
· UP, FRA and the BLE will work jointly on a Safety Assurance Compliance Program (SACP). The focus of the program will be to evaluate job fatigue, crew scheduling and the work/rest cycle. The FRA calls SACP "a new approach to safety inspection and encouraging compliance.
"The cornerstone of the SACP is its methodology for detecting and focusing on the root causes of systemic safety problems, especially over an entire large railroad system.
"SACP is a 'systems' approach to safety. SACP has three major objectives. These are consistency in regulatory applications, improving communications, and focusing on the root causes and solutions to systemic safety problems."
In its evaluation of UP, the FRA documented that 2,186 locomotive engineers remained in a tow-in status for a period in excess of 13 hours.
The FRA also reported that crews expired approximately 75% of the time under the Hours of Service Act. They are sometimes off-duty at home terminals for eight to 10 hours, but away from home for 30 to 48 hours. Engineers reported to FRA that the only way to get a day off was to lie about being sick.
The FRA also criticized UP for offering voluntary buy-outs to 40 employees while preparing to hire 40 new employees at a pay scale of 75% of the prevailing wage, even though UP is currently short of personnel. ·
** "At a location where engineers conduct inspections of their locomotives, one engineer stated he reported that the speedometer was not working before leaving the terminal. The engineer was instructed to depart with the train and to check the speedometer after he got out of the terminal to see if it would work.
"After leaving the terminal the engineer again reported the speedometer was still not working. He was told since he was now out of the terminal he could go ahead and make his trip because this was a failure en route. This happened on two occasions at two different locations."
** "One engineer was called to operate his first train that contained distributive power. When he questioned the operation of the power, a UP manager came into the crew ready room 10 or 15 minutes before (the engineer) was required to board his train and gave him an operating manual approximately one half inch thick.
"The manager stated that the answers to his questions were in the manual. The engineer said it took him 30 minutes to just understand how to operate the lead locomotive, and he was required to leave the yard without having knowledge of how to operate the rear locomotives."
** "One dispatcher said it was mandatory for them to work their days off if they were needed."
** "Crews being left on trains after the expiration of the Hours of Service. Sometimes in excess of two hours is spent awaiting the arrival of crew vans or relief crews. Crews expired under the Hours of Service Act approximately 75% of the time. This severely adds to crew unavailability and compounds rest and fatigue issues."
** "Crew management and the automated voice system does not function well. Lineups which crews rely on to set rest cycles are inaccurate to the point that one engineer stated he is happy when the lineups are only six or eight hours off."
The BLE Safety Task Force, in cooperation with the National Transportation Safety Board, is currently investigating the August 20 Union Pacific accident in Ft. Worth, Texas, in which a BLE member was killed.
The locomotive above rests on the right-hand side of the cab after it derailed during the August 20 Ft. Worth, Texas incident.
The incident occurred just before midnight on August 20 when four unmanned UP locomotives collided head-on with a westbound UP freight piloted by BLE Member Roy W. Adams.
Adams belonged to BLE Division 568 in Denison, Texas, and was a 23- year member. It was his first regular trip on that particular run, and therefore required to have a pilot. R.B. Jaggers, the pilot engineer, was also killed.
Adams' westbound train was cleared to leave Centennial Yard with oral authorization. It was travelling at 5 m.p.h. when it was hit by the runaway train out of the Iona Yard at 60 m.p.h.
BLE Special Representative and Safety Task Force Member Jim Bradford is on the investigative team looking for a cause in the accident.
"The procedures implemented by the engineer who tied the locomotives down (at Iona) were re-enacted," Bradford wrote in his Safety Task Force report. "We tied the hand brake on the lead unit and released the independent brake. The locomotives stayed in place and did not move. We re-applied the engine brakes. The units were killed and the knife switches were pulled. It took approximately 20 minutes for the brake cylinder pressure to go to zero. Even with no independent brakes applied on the engines, the hand brake on the lead locomotive held the consist and did not allow it to move. We waited about an hour for movement under these conditions and it did not occur.
"We backed off the hand brake approximately 21/32nds of an inch, measured on the hand brake chain, and the units began to move. We re-applied the hand brake on the lead locomotive and it stopped the locomotives. We started the locomotives for the purpose of going from Iona to Centennial Yard to determine the characteristics of the run with the hand brake lightly applied.
"The air brakes were charged and the independent brake was in full release. The hand brake on the lead unit was released approximately a quarter of a turn on the hand brake wheel and about 9/16th of an inch on the hand brake chain. At that point the engine started to move. After a period of nine minutes and 30 seconds, the engines reached 50 m.p.h.
"The conclusion of the field test was that the eastbound locomotives could have reached an impact speed of 60 m.p.h. with the hand brake tied on the lead unit. Blueing effect on the fourth wheel was evident on the runaway locomotives. We had the same results on the test engine which was the lead locomotive, thereby confirming that the engineer did tie the hand brake on the set of units that got away."
More details to come as the investigation unfolds. ·
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