UP remote control wreck in Texas highlights need for enforceable regulations

Don Hahs, National President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, issued the following statement in response to a remote control accident in Arlington, Texas, on March 11.

"On March 19, an article about a remote control train wreck appeared in the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

"An eyewitness told the paper that a Union Pacific remote control locomotive in Arlington, Texas, repeatedly backed up and rammed into an Auto Rack train until it derailed into the path of an oncoming freight train. In the article, a Union Pacific Railroad spokesman stated that the remote control operator was out of position to see the cars he was hitting.

"In the same article, a spokesman for the Union Pacific told the Star Telegram that the railroad 'has not had a single accident where it was the fault of the technology. They would have still happened with a human engineer.'

"I seriously doubt that the accident in Arlington would have happened with a certified locomotive engineer in the cab. No engineer in his right mind would have backed up and repeatedly rammed into a standing cut of cars until it derailed. Nor would this have happened if federal regulations had required head end protection.

"On March 12, an article regarding the safety of remote control locomotives was published in the Toledo Blade newspaper. BLET sources told the paper that point protection is routinely ignored in every day remote control operations. Federal Railroad Administration spokesman Warren Flatau responded by telling the paper that lack of point protection 'is a serious allegation' that will be investigated.

"The incident in Arlington, Texas, proves that the BLET's 'serious allegation' is correct. It is now time for the FRA to step up to the plate. It's time to stop investigating and start regulating.

"Proper point protection is one of the 'recommended guidelines' the FRA issued for remote control operations. It is becoming abundantly clear that railroad companies are regularly ignoring this and other 'recommended guidelines.'

"The railroad companies are playing a very dangerous game with remote control trains. The Auto Rack train in Arlington could very easily have been a chemical tanker. The oncoming freight train could very easily have been a high-speed passenger train. In short, the remote control wreck in Arlington could very easily have been much, much worse.

"Only enforceable federal regulations will put an end to this dangerous game."

According to eyewitness reports, this remote control engine backed up and repeatedly rammed into an Auto Rack car three times before the Auto Rack derailed.

 

© 2004 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen