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Inward-facing cameras unnecessary, wasteful

CLEVELAND, January 21 — The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) today charged that the installation of inward-facing cameras inside locomotive cabs as recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is unnecessary and wasteful.

The NTSB’s recommendations were issued following a meeting of the Board in Washington, D.C., regarding the fatal 2008 Metrolink commuter train accident in Chatsworth, Calif., in which 25 people were killed and more than a hundred others were injured. s

The BLET pointed out that as Positive Train Control (PTC) technology is installed over the next few years, there will be no advantage whatsoever for either audio or video recording of in-cab activities because the fail-safe nature of PTC technology will prevent collisions of the type that served as the basis for the NTSB recommendation.

Additionally, current FRA regulations and railroad operating procedures already provide for extensive recording of locomotive and signal data, and radio conversations are routinely recorded. Indeed, locomotive operation is monitored in such detail by today’s event recorders that inward-facing video cameras will provide no additional information of use in accident investigations.

The BLET also took the position that the NTSB placed too much significance on the locomotive engineer’s use of a cellular phone prior to the collision.

Indeed, former NTSB Chairman Jim Hall recently said the use of a cell phone by the Metrolink engineer did not violate any law or regulations at the time of the Chatsworth accident, and the issue has now been voluntarily addressed by the FRA. FRA Emergency Order 26, issued in 2008, outlaws in-cab use of cellular phones and other hand-held electronic devices by train crews except in strictly defined circumstances.

Hall said that Metrolink’s failure to embrace safety technology such as PTC was more of a contributing factor to the Chatsworth crash than the engineer’s use of a cellular phone.

Hall also said the failure of Metrolink to install PTC technology years ago — specifically, after NTSB recommended that Metrolink install it following a 2002 Metrolink accident in Placentia, Calif., — was “irresponsible” and was a “major factor in the Chatsworth collision.”

"The tragedy in Chatsworth was one of California''''s worst disasters in the modern era of railroading, and our hearts and prayers go out to those who lost family members, friends and neighbors in the accident," BLET National President Paul Sorrow said. "But the fact of the matter is that the NTSB''''s recommendation, if implemented at the time, would not have prevented this tragedy.

“The speedy installation of Positive Train Control technology should be the focus here, not invasive, inward-facing video cameras inside of locomotive cabs,” Sorrow added. “Safety is the most important responsibility of all locomotive engineers, and while our organization fully supports technology that makes the work place safer for our members and the traveling public, we oppose any measure that needlessly invades their privacy and without providing substantive safety improvements.”

Thursday, January 21, 2010
bentley@ble-t.org

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