FRA remote control safety advisory misses the mark

BLE disappointed with unenforceable FRA remote control safety advisory

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers expressed disappointment with the Federal Railroad Administration's safety advisory regarding "recommended minimal guidelines" for the operation of remote control locomotives.

The safety advisory was published in the Federal Register on February 14, but contains only "recommended" guidelines, which are unenforceable in the protection of worker safety. In November 2000, the BLE petitioned the FRA to initiate a rulemaking process, which would lead to an enforceable regulation.

"With remote control operations in the early stages of use in the railroad industry, the FRA is in danger of letting down workers and the general public by not regulating this unproven and highly suspect technology," BLE International President Edward Dubroski said.

President Dubroski said the government agency must take further steps to regulate this questionable technology.

"The safety advisory alone is not enough to protect rail workers from the potential hazards associated with remote control technology," the BLE President said.

In November 2000, President Dubroski stressed the need for a regulation to strictly govern the use of remote control locomotives.

"(A) regulation, properly written, will ensure that RCL will be used safely, provide a degree of consistency in RCL equipment, and permit FRA to meet its statutory obligation to railroad employees and the public through proper approval, testing, inspection, repair and reporting," Dubroski wrote in a petition to the FRA for a remote control rulemaking.

Dubroski noted that a runaway remote control locomotive derailed on the Union Pacific mainline near Blair, Neb., in December. Such an accident could have had catastrophic results and shows the unreliable nature of the remote control devices.

In an effort to further document the danger of such operations, the BLE is collecting data from its members regarding unsafe conditions and/or accidents they have encountered while working with remote control locomotives.

Members should send such information to the BLE's National Legislative Office, 10 G Street NE, Suite 480, Washington DC 20002, or via the e-mail at: <>.

The FRA's safety advisory is available on the BLE website as a PDF file:

2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers