50th community enacts remote control safety resolution

As this issue of the Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen News goes to press, 50 different communities in the U.S. have passed remote control safety resolutions.

A total of 36 cities and 14 counties have enacted safety resolutions. In addition, 16 different AFL-CIO State Federations have passed similar resolutions.

All of these resolutions call upon the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to adopt enforceable regulations to make remote control operations safer.

The operation of remote control trains in the United States is virtually unregulated. To date, the FRA has only issued recommended guidelines and not enforceable safety regulations. Railroad companies often ignore these guidelines in the day-to-day operation of remote control trains.

Most recent to pass city resolutions are: Central City, Ill.; Carteret, N.J.; and Toledo, Ohio. The most recent county resolutions are: Roanoke County, Va.; Harris County, Texas; and Greenup, Ky.


Central City, Ill.

The Central City, Ill., resolution was enacted on December 15. The BLET's Illinois State Legislative Board Chairman C.E. Way thanked Brad Pearson, Legislative Representative of BLET Division 94 (Centralia, Ill.), and Kenneth Buchanan, President of the Central City City Council, for their work on the resolution.


Carteret, N.J.

The Borough of Carteret, N.J., passed a remote control safety resolution on February 5.

The effort to pass the resolution was spearheaded by Ray Enriquez, Legislative Representative of BLET Division 660 (Los Angeles), members of the California State Legislative Board, and members of the New Jersey State Legislative Board.

In late January, the New Jersey Board was contacted by Brother Enriquez to advise that a resolution was going to be presented to the Carteret Council by Council President Ron Rios. Brother Enriquez, a member of the California State Legislative Board, works at the George Meany Center as a hazmat peer trainer. Council President Rios, a former peer trainer at the Meany Center, is a carman by trade and a member of the TCU.

"I am very proud of the coordinated efforts between members of the New Jersey State Legislative Board and the California State Legislative Board, which resulted in the passage of the Carteret resolution," California State Legislative Board Chairman Tim Smith said. "It is through coordinated efforts such as this one that we accomplish many things. A heartfelt thank you goes out to all those who have been involved in this new resolution."

New Jersey State Legislative Board Chairman Ken Michel also thanked those involved in the passage of the resolution.

"I would like to thank Brother Enriquez and Ron Rios for their commitment to the safety of the citizens of New Jersey and the Borough of Carteret," said Chairman Michel.

Council President Rios said that the resolution would help to keep the borough safe.

"I feel compelled that we as a community cannot take safety for granted," said Rios. "I proposed this resolution to the Mayor and Borough Council not to be reactive but proactive. Remote control locomotives should not and cannot be used in our town."

Brother Enriquez thanked Brother Michel for his assistance in getting the resolution adopted.

"Ken Michel provided me with documents that were really beneficial," Enriquez said. "He provided me letters from Senator Jon S. Corzine and Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo that support our position on the remote control issue."


Toledo, Ohio

Toledo, Ohio, passed a remote control safety resolution on March 9.

Jim Ong, Chairman of the BLET's Ohio State Legislative Board, thanked several BLET members for their work on the resolution, including: Tim Hanely, Vice Chairman of the OSLB; Rodney Cutlip, BLET Division 385 (Toledo) Local Chairman; Tom Galloway, BLET Division 4 (Toledo) Legislative Representative; Don Rozick, BLET Division 385 Legislative Representative; and Bill Barber, Local Chairman and Legislative Representative of BLE Division 937 (Toledo). Chairman Ong also thanked Toledo Mayor Jack Ford; City Councilman Robert McCloskey; and Mayoral Chief of Staff Jay Black. He also noted the efforts of Roberta Stout, a resident of Toledo who worked tirelessly on this issue.

The resolution seeks to ban the transportation of hazardous materials by remote control and to prevent them from being operated over public or private highway rail grade crossings. Like many of the other safety resolutions, the Toledo measure calls for a ban on remote operations until effective and reliable protection at the point of movement is in place.


Roanoke County, Va.

The Roanoke County Board of Supervisors passed a remote control safety resolution on December 16.

The Board of Supervisors, acting on a request made by BLET Division 301 (Roanoke, Va.), cited the Board's long-standing position of being pro-active toward public safety in passing the resolution.

The measure was sponsored by County Supervisor Mike Altizer, who expressed the need to have enforceable federal regulations regarding remote control locomotives.

"I cannot see how the Federal Railroad Administration can require a licensed railroad employee (an engineer) to operate a train under mandatory regulations, and then allow another employee (a remote control operator) to operate a train under voluntary guidelines, " Supervisor Altizer said.

"Obviously, we're very pleased with the Board's decision for several reasons," said Division 301 Legislative Representative Michael Roop. "Roanoke County becomes the first Virginia municipality to enact a remote control safety resolution."

Brother Roop recognized the efforts of Division 301 members Mike Worley, Gary Myers, Paul Paxton, and Frank Owens (retired) for their part in making the BLE's successful presentation to the Board of Supervisors.

The resolution is the result of many months of meetings with various members of the Board of Supervisors, providing them with an insight into the dangers associated with railroading.


Harris County, Texas

Harris County, Texas, unanimously passed a remote control safety resolution on December 16. It is the third largest county in the United States with a population of 3.4 million.

BLET Texas State Legislative Board Chairman Terry Briggs reports that the first meeting between the BLET and Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia (Precinct 2) was on October 31. Also in attendance were: Herb Yambra President of BLE Division 194 (Houston); Bob Tramuto, Designated Legal Counsel; Richard Shaw, Secretary-Treasurer of the Harris County AFL-CIO; and Dale Wortham, President of the Harris County AFL-CIO.

The Harris County AFL-CIO had enacted its own remote control safety resolution on September 24.

At the October 31 meeting, the BLE distributed informational packets to all the Commissioners. The BLE and Commissioners discussed the issue of remote control and resolutions enacted by other communities and AFL-CIO bodies.

After the initial meeting, Commissioner Garcia and Brother Yambra corresponded by telephone, e-mail, fax and in a continual exchange of safety information. Ms. Garcia and Brother Yambra met again in person on December 11, at which time she stated that the resolutions would be going for a vote in front of the County Commissioners on December 16.

"It's all history from that point," Chairman Briggs said. "The resolution was passed unanimously thanks to the hard work of Herb and Kathy Yambra, Commissioner Garcia, Bob Tramuto, Richard Shaw and Dale Wortham."

Brother Briggs also thanked all BLE members in the Houston area who worked on the project and participated in a remote control safety rally.


Greenup County, Ky.

On January 13, the Greenup County Fiscal Court in Greenup, Ky., passed a resolution condemning remote control train operations. The resolution passed after a CSX employee lost part of his leg in a remote control switching accident on December 15.

CSX employee Lloyd "Shane" Bishop, 29, was performing rail switching operations by remote control in Russell Yard in December when the accident occurred. One of his feet was crushed by a rail car, causing amputation above the ankle.

The Greenup resolution states, "We, the Fiscal Court of Greenup County, hereby, resolve that we are acutely aware of the recent accident that occurred at the Russell Yards in December 2003 If we identify safety problems associated with the use of this technology, we will aggressively move to mitigate and furthermore, alleviate the use of remote controls at said yard."

Tommy Mayne, Chairman of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen's Kentucky State Legislative Board, attended the Fiscal Court's January 13 meeting.

Brother Mayne reported the officers and members of BLET Division 271 in Russell, Ky., are deserving of praise for their hard work in lobbying for passage of the resolution. He noted the exceptional efforts of: Eddie May, President of Division 271; Tim Braden, Local Chairman of Division 271; Randy Sowards, Secretary-Treasurer of Division 271; Daniel Maynard, Legislative Representative; and Eddie Stump, Member of Division 271.

The December 15 accident in Russell happened just days after a Union Pacific worker was killed in a remote control switching accident in San Antonio.

On December 7, Union Pacific employee Jody Herstine, 37, was struck and killed by a locomotive that he was operating by remote control at a rail yard in San Antonio.


On the Internet

For copies of the resolutions passed by all cities and counties, please visit the BLET website at: http://www.ble.org/remotecontrol


© 2004 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen