BLE, FRA join forces to beat the heat
BLE International President Edward Dubroski and FRA Administrator Jolene Molitoris rode in the cab of a locomotive through the Arizona desert in an effort to draw attention to the need for improved locomotive cab working conditions.
They specifically chose the Arizona desert to focus on the need for air conditioning. The temperature in Arizona that day was a "cool" 97 degrees, producing a temperature above 100 degrees in non-air conditioned cabs.
FRA research has documented temperatures as high as 131 degrees in non-air conditioned cabs, and BLE members have struggled with this problem for decades.
"There is no other transportation industry subjecting its employees to such conditions," Administrator Molitoris said at the BLE's International Western Convention in Jackson Hole, Wyo. "It is time, and way overtime, for such practice to stop in the railroad industry."
Many locomotive cabs provide the perfect breeding ground for heat exhaustion. Early symptoms of heat exhaustion include dizziness and fatigue, which obviously are dangerous when operating a locomotive. Later symptoms are even more problematic, with the major ones being poor decision making, vision problems and irrational behavior. These health risks, along with the threat to safety that they pose, explain why getting air conditioning systems installed in locomotive cabs is a top BLE priority.
In addition, BLE members are frequently forced to open the windows of locomotive cabs in an effort to beat the heat, leaving them vulnerable to potential injury from vandals and rock throwers.
Jon Hurst, Local Chairman of BLE Division 28 in Tucson was locomotive engineer for the trip. Bob Conway of UTU Local 807 was the conductor. Also in the cab was UP's Senior Manager of Operating Practices Mike Faulkner.
President Dubroski thanked Division 28 President Paul Currier, Division 28 Secretary Treasurer Jim Booth, Arizona State Legislative Board Chairman Rob Svob, and GIA Auxiliary 28 President Kathy Hurst for their assistance in making the trip a success.
"The carriers have been resistant to our attempts to reach a consensus on the issue of air conditioning in locomotive cabs," President Dubroski said. "It is our hope that these cooperative efforts with Administrator Molitoris and the Federal Railroad Administration will bring relief to our members."
© 2000 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers