BLE campaigns to stop remote controls

Nebraska legislation would allow remote control locomotives

Do you have a question about federal laws, Federal Railroad Administration rules that impact your job, or about pending legislation governing our industry? Send it to:

D.C. Feedback, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers
10 G. Street N.E., Suite 480
Washington, DC 20002

Or you can fax your questions to (202) 347-5237; or via e-mail to:

If the BLE's National Legislative Office does not have the answer on hand (such as a federal interpretation), they'll get back to you as soon as possible. Select questions and answers will be published regularly in the pages of the Locomotive Engineer Newsletter.

This month's installment deals with the requirements for pulling a locomotive out of service.


DC Feedback:

You have asked for the conditions that require a locomotive be "taken out of service." You also inform us that you have been told by carrier officers that it is legal to put a defective locomotive in a trailing position and continue your trip with a defect.

The answer to your question is not a simple one. First, according to the provisions of 49 CFR 229.7 - Prohibited acts.

"(a) The Locomotive Inspection Act (45 U.S.C. 22-34) makes it unlawful for any carrier to use or permit to be used on its line any locomotive unless the entire locomotive and its appurtenances -

"(1) Are in proper condition and safe to operate in the service to which they are put, without unnecessary peril to life or limb; and

"(2) Have been inspected and tested as required by this part."


Other provisions of Part 229 spell out in detail the performance requirements or design standards necessary for compliance. The specific locomotive parts or systems that must be in compliance are usually the items that are inspected during regular locomotive inspections. There are times when exceptions are made and then specific requirements are triggered for handling; for instance, when a locomotive encounters a defect en route.

According to 49 CFR 229.9-Movement of non-complying locomotives, the rule reads as follows:

"(a) Except as provided in paragraphs (b), (c) and 229.125(h)" (historic equipment and regulations for headlights and auxiliary lights)," a locomotive with one or more conditions not in compliance with this part may be moved only as a lite locomotive or a dead locomotive after the carrier has complied with the following:

"(1) A qualified person shall determine -

"(i) That it is safe to move the locomotive; and

"(ii) The maximum speed and other restrictions necessary for safely conducting the movement;

"(2) (i) The engineer in charge of the movement of the locomotive shall be notified in writing and inform all other crew members in the cab of the presence of the non-complying locomotive and the maximum speed and other restrictions determined under paragraph (a)(1)(ii) of this section.

"(ii) A copy of the tag described in paragraph (a)(3) of this section may be used to provide the notification required by paragraph (a)(2)(i) of this section.

"(3) A tag bearing the words 'non-complying locomotive' and containing the following information, shall be securely attached to the control stand on each MU or control cab locomotive and to the isolation switch or near the engine start switch on every other type of locomotive -

"(i) The locomotive number;

"(ii) The name of the inspecting carrier;

"(iii) The inspection location and date;

"(iv) The nature of each defect;

"(v) Movement restrictions, if any;

"(vi) The destination; and

"(vii) The signature of the person making the determinations required by this paragraph.

"(b) A locomotive that develops a non-complying condition enroute may continue to utilize its propelling motors, if the requirements of paragraph (a) are otherwise fully met, until the earlier of-

"(1) The next calendar day inspection, or

"(2) The nearest forward point where the repairs necessary to bring it into compliance can be made.

"(c) A non-complying locomotive may be moved lite or dead within a yard, at speeds not in excess of 10 miles per hour, without meeting the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section if the movement is solely for the purpose of repair. The carrier is responsible to insure that the movement may be safely made.

"(d) A dead locomotive may not continue in use following a calendar day inspection as a controlling locomotive or at the head of a train or locomotive consist.

"(e) A locomotive does not cease to be a locomotive because its propelling motor or motors are inoperative or because its control jumper cables are not connected.

"(f) Nothing in this section authorizes the movement of a locomotive subject to a Special Notice for Repair unless the movement is made in accordance with the restrictions contained in the Special Notice."


In 1998, FRA issued a Technical Bulletin, MPE-98-50, on the subject of the movement of defective locomotives. The bulletin offered guidelines for enforcement of Section 229.9(b)entitled, 'Continued use of locomotive developing en route non-complying condition.'


The technical bulletin stated:

"If the non-complying condition can be brought into compliance by shifting the position of the locomotive in the consist, the non-complying condition should be rectified by doing so at the next forward location. This could be a siding, a wye, or any location where it is physically possible to reposition the locomotive. Railroad employees performing this task may do so if it does not endanger the safety of employees, locomotives or train. This location should not be construed or designated as a repair point."

It also states:

"Section 229.9(a)(1) requires that, 'A qualified person shall determine - (i) That it is safe to move the locomotive; and (ii) The maximum speed and other restrictions necessary for safely conducting the movement.' Difficulty in the interpretation and enforcement of Section 229.9 arises as this section does not provide guidance with respect to the criteria used to 'qualify' a person to make the determination required above. The decisions to continue use of a non-complying locomotive in some cases are being made by persons not qualified to make these decisions. A person qualified to perform a daily inspection may not necessarily possess the qualifications to make the determination that it is safe to move a defective locomotive.

"The qualified person must have demonstrated to the railroad, at a minimum, the knowledge and ability to inspect locomotives and provide recommendations regarding the criteria listed in Section 229.9(a). This does not imply that the qualified person must possess intimate knowledge of and experience with all of the components and functions of a locomotive. Additionally, there are varying levels of qualified persons. As an example, a journeyman electrician may not have the necessary knowledge to make safety recommendations concerning locomotive running gear, however, that person should be qualified to address problems associated with the electric control apparatus.

"Section 240.123 requires that each railroad provide for initial and continuing education of certified locomotive engineers to ensure that each engineer maintains the knowledge, skills, and ability with respect to (among other areas) the mechanical condition of equipment. As such, the locomotive engineer is considered qualified to provide safety recommendations concerning certain en route non-complying conditions. Normally, these conditions are limited to those which are evaluated during the calendar day inspection required by Section 229.21 such as headlights, speed indicators, cab seats, air brakes, wiper, and alerter malfunctions. The locomotive engineer would also be expected to identify certain obvious mechanical problems such as major wheel defects and some running gear problems. However, the engineer would not be expected to properly assess the safety implications of continued movement of the locomotive for most mechanical defects. In these cases, recommendations regarding the continued safe movement of a non-complying locomotive in accordance with 229.9(a)(1) need to be made by a person that is more qualified such as a mechanical department employee. These recommendations may be based on telephone or radio conversations between the engineer and the more qualified individual. If the non-complying condition cannot be resolved solely via voice communication, a qualified individual must conduct a physical on-site inspection to identify all appropriate restrictions for continued safe movement of the locomotive.

"While it is the transportation/operating department that controls the daily operation of the railroad, operating personnel may not possess the qualifications and technical expertise to make safety recommendations regarding non-complying locomotives. When investigating an issue involving enforcement of 229.9, MP&E inspectors must carefully examine the qualifications of the individual who made the safety recommendations to determine if the railroad acted in compliance with the regulations."

The Technical Bulletin continues with:

"A locomotive which develops a non-complying condition en route must be tagged before continued use is permitted in accordance with 229.9(a) (3).

"Certain non-complying conditions require a locomotive to be removed from the lead position at the first available location, but would not require it to be removed from service. Examples of such conditions include, but are not limited to: speed indicators, headlights, cab windows and audible warning devices. When conditions such as these exist, the railroad must, in order to be in compliance, remove the locomotive from the lead position. Inspectors must exercise sound judgement. For example, a defective cab heater during warm weather would not necessitate removal of the locomotive from the lead or controlling position. In the interest of safety, when a locomotive is repositioned from the lead position to correct a non-complying condition, the "non-complying locomotive tag" should remain attached to the locomotive until repairs are made."

The Technical Bulletin also addresses guidelines for the movement of a locomotive beyond a repair location. It states:

"Part 229.9 is silent on the repair location question. It depends on the power penalty built into the regulation to convince the railroad to maintain the locomotive fleet. Movement of a lite or dead locomotive not only limits the power available but adds tonnage to the train.

"Where an MP&E inspector has knowledge that a railroad permits locomotives which develop en route non-complying conditions to continue in service past mechanical facilities, he or she should investigate to determine that the requirements of Section 229.9 (a) are being complied with. If the inspector is made aware that a non-complying locomotive was moved beyond a forward repair location, that has previously demonstrated the ability to effect repairs of the non-complying condition, he or she must ensure that subject locomotive would no longer be used as a propelling or lead locomotive. There is no implication in 229.9(b) that each repair location must be capable of repairing all en route non-complying conditions which could occur.

"Guidelines for movement of a locomotive from one repair location to another repair location:

"Part 229.9 allows a railroad to move a non-complying locomotive as a lite or dead locomotive to a more distant repair point of its choice provided it meets all other requirements of Section 229.9 and such action does not endanger the safety of employees, locomotives or train.

"Guidelines for movement of a locomotive with power brake and or safety appliance defects:

"Nothing in this section authorizes the movement of a locomotive with power brake or safety appliance defects. Such locomotives can only be moved under provisions of 20303 (Recodified 13 of the Safety Appliance Acts)."


Obviously there is not a simple answer to your question. In all cases when defects are encountered en route or at locations where they can be repaired they should be reported using the procedure outlined by the railroad.

For the benefit of other crew members and locomotive engineers who may operate the equipment after you have been relieved, you should report the defects to them and leave a written report in the cab of the lead locomotive.

2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers