BLE files lawsuit over remote control

Secretary of Transportatin Mineta, FRA Administrator Rutter named as defendants

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers filed a lawsuit on March 22 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia over the issue of remote control locomotives.

The lawsuit claims that Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta and Federal Railroad Administrator (FRA) Allan Rutter have not lived up to their responsibilities in administering the Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970, and the Locomotive Inspection Act, which regulates interstate commerce and safety in the railroad industry.

In January, six of the nation's largest railroads (Burlington Northern Santa Fe, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, Conrail, and Kansas City Southern) began operating locomotives in terminal operations by means of microprocessors and remote control devices handled by ground employees. As part of implementation, the carriers eliminated positions held by locomotive engineers and now operate the locomotives without any employees at the controls inside the locomotive cabs.

The railroads have announced that the microprocessors installed on the remote control locomotives have replaced the functions previously performed by locomotive engineers who are certified by FRA regulations.

The suit alleges that the FRA and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) were fully aware of the actions of the six carriers initiating remote control operations without locomotive engineers in the cabs and that such operations are within the regulatory jurisdiction of the FRA and DOT.

The microprocessors and remote control devices are "parts and appurtenances" within the meaning of the Locomotive Inspection Act and subject to regulations ensuring inspections and repair of defects, the suit claims.

The lawsuit alleges that since the FRA or DOT never prescribed required regulations for inspections or tests of the remote control equipment, they have violated their mandatory obligations under the Safety Act and the Locomotive Act. Their failure has resulted in an increased risk of danger to locomotive engineers, other rail workers and the public at large, says the suit.

"The harm caused by the defendants' failures to act can only be remedied by the intervention of, and issuance of an injunction by this Court," the suit stipulated.

The civil action asks the court to "grant the plaintiff a permanent injunction requiring the defendants to comply with their statutory obligations under Section 20702 of the Locomotive Act to undertake inspections, prescribe tests and promulgate regulations applicable to the installation, use and inspection of locomotive parts and appurtenances that enable the operation of locomotives via remote control so as to ensure that every railroad carrier is in compliance with its obligations under Section 20701 of the Locomotive Act."

The full text of the lawsuit is available on the BLE website at:



2002 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers