FRA to address locomotive cab air conditioning

Improving locomotive cab working conditions is a top priority of the Federal Railroad Administration, said FRA Administrator Jolene Molitoris in a speech to BLE members attending the union's International Western Convention in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Administrator Molitoris said the FRA is committed to issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on locomotive cab working conditions before the end of this year.

While Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) working groups have done a good job of handling sanitation and noise issues, she said, the oppressive heat of locomotive cabs in the summertime remains an unresolved issue.

"(BLE International) President Dubroski and I will be going on a ride very soon to raise public awareness and to pique the conscience of all in our industry, including those in the corporate offices, about what it's like to spend hours in a locomotive without air conditioning when the temperature is 110 degrees or more," Administrator Molitoris said. "There is no other transportation industry subjecting its employees to such conditions. It is time, and way overtime, for such practice to stop in the railroad industry.

"A recent letter from President Dubroski notified me that his negotiations with AAR had discontinued and asked that FRA move forward with a rule as soon as possible," Administrator Molitoris continued. "I will provide the RSAC one more opportunity to resolve this issue because I believe a consensus agreement will best serve us all. But if RSAC cannot reach resolution timely, I will move forward with the notice to assure a notice of proposed rulemaking (on locomotive cab working conditions) before year's end."

Molitoris has first hand knowledge of how hot locomotive cabs can get.

"Thanks to Don Bergman (BLE Arizona State Legislative Board Chairman), I have a very personal recollection of what it's like to ride in the Tucson heat without air conditioning," she said. "And I was there on a 'cool' day; it was only about 100 degrees."

The BLE has been pushing for improved locomotive cab air conditioning standards for more than two years. Vice-President & U.S. National Legislative Representative Leroy Jones, Indiana State Legislative Board Chairman Bill Verdeyne, and BLE Regulatory Research Coordinator Bob Harvey are members of the RSAC Cab Working Conditions Temperature Task Force.

Administrator Molitoris also addressed the FRA's "zero tolerance" goal for deaths in the railroad industry.

"When we first set zero tolerance as a goal, there was a lot of loud skepticism," she said. "But just look at the statistics: Between 1993 and 1999, employee fatalities from train incidents have been reduced a phenomenal 87%! And for the same period employee injuries have been reduced by 45%.

"In 1998, for the first time in railroad history, employee fatalities were under 30, in fact 27. And in 2000, if we continue the safety effort we are now waging, we could reduce the number to under 20. So far in the year 2000, there have been eight employee fatalities, of which none were locomotive engineers. And so those skeptics who scoffed at zero tolerance - let them take note - we know zero injuries and zero deaths in the railroad industry is a real goal that we can realize - but only if we passionately seek it together."

Administrator Molitoris also complimented President Dubroski for the vast amount of work his administration has accomplished in such a short period of time.

"I have had the chance to see your President in action," Molitoris said. "I have watched President Dubroski exert powerful leadership - whether it is at the Conference table with the Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater, in the White House with President Clinton and Vice President Gore, on the hill outside the Capitol championing the cause of miners on national television, or aggressively seeking and getting the most extraordinary agreement for 10 years of New York Dock protection for BLE members in the event that the BN-CN merger is considered and approved.

"This is a President who along with his fine and dedicated team is proving that leadership matters at the BLE."

 

2000 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers