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BLET calls for Positive Train Control following Metro-North fatality

Statement by National President Dennis R. Pierce

CLEVELAND, December 5 — The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents more than 51,000 active and retired locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. While we are the largest union representing locomotive engineers in America, we do not currently represent locomotive engineers at Metro-North and, therefore, have refrained from commenting on the December 1 derailment or the ongoing investigation. In light of the multiple requests for comments on the derailment from various news outlets, BLET has issued the following statement from National President Dennis R. Pierce.

“First and foremost, the BLET extends our deepest sympathies to all accident victims and their loved ones. It is impossible for those who were not affected to understand the grief that now surrounds those who were, but it is paramount that the lessons from this tragedy are used to prevent any such loss in the future. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the professional and highly skilled locomotive engineers and conductors at Metro-North, who have expressed shock and sadness at the events of December 1.

“As to questions concerning the training that is provided to locomotive engineers, in general terms most engineers are seasoned veterans who receive years of on-the-job training working as rail conductors or in other railroad crafts. They must also complete classroom training and numerous written and field tests prior to earning promotion to engineer. Locomotive engineers are subject to extensive certification requirements pursuant to the provisions of Part 240 of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Under Part 240, each railroad must have in place a certification program approved by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). An individual railroad’s certification program must meet minimum federal safety requirements for the eligibility, training, testing, certification and monitoring of its locomotive engineers. Locomotive engineers are then subject to annual testing to maintain their license, and must be recertified every three years.

“With respect to fatigue, BLET has been at the forefront of an effort to mitigate fatigue amongst railroad engineers and conductors. Although most passenger and commuter rail engineers and conductors work scheduled shifts, fatigue still occurs when work cycles are changed. In addition, most locomotive engineers who work for the freight railroads that run side by side with passenger operations must report for duty on an as-needed basis. They are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. These demanding work schedules can result in instances of fatigue. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen has worked to ensure the safety of its members and the general public by seeking to resolve the issue of fatigue, either through the collective bargaining process or through the legislative arena.

“BLET has also called for the implementation of Positive Train Control technology for decades. This life-saving technology provides a safety overlay that assists locomotive engineers as they approach speed restrictions as well as required stops. History has shown that Positive Train Control could have prevented many of the fatalities and injuries suffered across the country by railroad employees and the general public. The BLET will continue in our efforts to see that this technology is implemented as soon as possible.”

Thursday, December 5, 2013
bentley@ble-t.org

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