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BLET urges FRA to improve cab safety, security

CLEVELAND, September 24 — In the aftermath of the tragic murder of CSX Conductor Fred Gibbs in the cab of his train’s lead locomotive, BLET National President Dennis Pierce has called on the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to act to improve the safety and security of locomotive cabs to help protect operating crews.

Gibbs was shot to death and his engineer was wounded during an apparent robbery in late June, when an intruder invaded the cab of the controlling locomotive of their train, which was being held in a siding.

In his September 22 letter to FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo, President Pierce highlighted data from the two Teamsters Rail Conference High Alert surveys, showing that most BLET members are unable to secure their cabs from attack, and that little has changed over the past five years.

Tragically, Gibbs was murdered just four days after public release of the Teamsters High Alert 2 rail security report. The High Alert 2 report revealed that 51 percent of train crews surveyed had no way to lock or secure the cab of their locomotive against unauthorized access while occupied. Additionally, 73 percent had no way to lock the cab while it was unoccupied.

President Pierce offered to develop a PDF-based reporting form that BLET members could access via the Union’s website to electronically report specific instances of an inability to secure their locomotive cabs. He also said the BLET would compile and maintain the data from these reports, if FRA was prepared to accept their validity.

Additionally, the FRA was asked to take the following steps:

• Revise its interpretation of 49 C.F.R. § 229.45 to include malfunctioning and uninstalled cab locking devices as “conditions that endanger the safety of the crew” and issue a Safety Advisory to that effect.

• Revise the Task Statement for the Locomotive Safety Standards Working Group of the FRA’s Railroad Safety Advisory Committee to include the development of standards for securing locomotive cabs.

• Make locomotive cab securement a prominent feature in FRA’s final report on cab conditions, which is mandated by Section 405(b) of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

• Empower operating crews with the right to manage their locomotive consist so that an air conditioned locomotive is on the point whenever any locomotive in their consist is so equipped, to reduce exposure caused when crews are forced by heat to leave cab windows open.

• Revisit outdated glazing requirements.

“I have always believed that we will never have secure rails until we have a secure cab,” President Pierce said. “In the wake of 9/11, the airlines beefed up their cockpit doors to provide a secure workplace and environment for pilots and the traveling public. It’s way past time for locking locomotive cab doors on all locomotives.”

For further information, PDFs of the Teamsters Rail Conference High Alert reports and the letter to Administrator Szabo are available on the BLET website:

http://www.ble-t.org/security

http://www.ble-t.org/pr/pdf/Szabo_cab_security.pdf

Friday, September 24, 2010
bentley@ble-t.org

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