BLET lauds Congressman Capuano for support of rail safety, security

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), a division of the Teamsters Rail Conference, applauded Congressman Mike Capuano (D-MA) for making a statement of record in support of improved railroad safety and security measures regarding remote control locomotives.

At a hearing of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee on March 24, Congressman Capuano said that the operation of remote control trains has become a national security issue in light of terrorist attacks on trains in Madrid.

"What is clear, Mr. Chairman, is that in light of recent terrorist acts and the vulnerability of our rail system to potential attacks, the use of Remote Control Locomotives (RCLs) must be considered in a whole new light," Congressman Capuano said.

He also said that lax federal oversight has caused remote control trains to become a safety risk.

"I am informed that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued 'guidelines' for using remote control devices, but they have turned out to be exactly that - guidelines - that in some cases have been loosely interpreted and in other cases completely ignored," the Congressman said. "I am told that these guidelines do not actually require carriers to adopt all the necessary safety procedures and in general do not go far enough to ensure that this technology is implemented and utilized safely."

"Congressman Capuano has brought to light a serious safety issue in our nation's rail system. The use of RCL's is not only risky, but has also caused skilled operating employees to be replaced by an electronic device," said James P. Hoffa, Teamsters General President. "No type of technology will ever replace the eyes and ears of skilled, dedicated rail employees."

BLET National President Don Hahs said that the FRA's failure to act on the issue has resulted in a decrease in the level of safety and security in the rail industry.

"Congressman Capuano's statement is a positive step toward creating mandatory, enforceable federal safety regulations in a segment of the rail industry currently lacking any federal safety rules," National President Hahs said. "Security of our nation's railroads should be a top priority, and I thank Congressman Capuano for bringing this potential security risk to the forefront."

Even though the FRA is currently conducting a safety audit on the use of remote control, as requested by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Congressman Capuano said he is concerned with evaluation of the results.

"I would encourage all members of the Committee to join me in watching with interest as the FRA compiles data related to these operations," he said. "I am very concerned that the data that is collected will be evaluated objectively. The safety of the railroad's employees, the public and our communities depend on it."

The Executive Committee of the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department, representing 35 member unions, unanimously approved a policy resolution on March 7 that calls for an end to remote control train operations.

The BLET represents 50,000 active and retired members and is a Division of the Teamsters Rail Conference.



© 2004 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen