Baton Rouge bans remote controls

By a vote of 10-1, the City Council of Baton Rouge, La., passed a resolution to ban the use of remote control locomotives in the city due to public safety concerns.

The September 25 vote came after the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers made City Council members aware of the fact that the Kansas City Southern was using remote control locomotives within city limits, and that a remote control unit derailed in August.

"The next derailment might be one where there's chemicals (on the train) and we can't get people out," Baton Rouge Mayor Pro Tempore Lorri Burgess said in a newspaper article published in the Baton-Rouge Advocate on September 26.

The resolution, which is not legally binding, was passed in order to create public awareness of the practice and to make railroads more responsive to residents.

"If the knowledge base has been expanded through this resolution, I think the mission has been accomplished," Mayor Pro Tempore Burgess said.

The city's resolution also calls upon the Federal Railroad Administration to develop comprehensive regulations to govern the use of remote control locomotives.

The lone dissenter on the Baton Rouge City Council said the measure was "reckless" and that the issue of remote control locomotives was one of union politics. In the name of public safety, however, he was out-voted by a 10-to-1 ratio.

Rodney Stutes, a member of BLE Division 366 (Houston) and a member of the BLE's National Mobilization Team, addressed members of the City Council's Finance and Executive Committee on September 19 and told them about the KCS remote control derailment in August. He also informed the Council members that the Canadian National Railway, which pioneered the use of remotes in the early 1990s, has used the technology sparingly - if at all - on its properties in the United States due to efficiency and safety concerns.

The BLE has conducted a string of public safety rallies throughout the United States this summer in an effort to create public awareness of remote control locomotives and the safety concerns that arise from using employees other than locomotive engineers to operate the technology.

On September 17, an employee of the California Northern Railroad was injured and lost his left leg while operating a remote control locomotive in Napa Valley, Calif.

Michael F. O'Brien, Chairman of the Louisiana State Legislative Board, recognized several BLE members who participated in the lobbying effort, including: Sam Parker, General Chairman on the Kansas City Southern; Tim Windsor, Local Chairman of BLE Division 527 (Pittsburg, Kan.); Brother Stutes; and Bob Harvey of the BLE's National Legislative Office in Washington, D.C. The Louisiana State AFL-CIO was also instrumental in opening doors to communicate with the City Council.

"Thanks also to those who have taken the time to report and photograph remote control incidents and all those who have given their time to put on and participate in the informational demonstrations held so far across this country," Brother O'Brien said. "Without your interest and participation this may not have happened."


© 2002 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers