Engineers, not RCOs, belong in cabs

BLE, Carriers agree that remote control operators (RCOs) will not operate locomotives from locomotive cabs pending arbitration

BLE and the Class I rail carriers involved in the dispute over the assignment of remote control technology agreed that until the dispute is resolved in arbitration, remote control operators (RCOs) will be instructed not to operate locomotives while they are inside locomotive cabs.

This issue came to a head after BLE received numerous reports from BLE members that RCOs on the Class I carriers were controlling locomotive movements from inside the cabs of locomotives, often from the seat formerly occupied by the locomotive engineer.

BLE filed a motion in the U.S. District Court in Chicago asking U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall to clarify that the January 16, 2002, injunction she issued against BLE did not cover such situations.

Judge Gottschall heard arguments on BLE's motion on October 10. The Judge said she "did not foresee" this situation when she issued the injunction and questioned the carriers' counsel, "if you need somebody in the cab, why shouldn't it be the Engineer?" She then scheduled an evidentiary hearing for October 17 to decide whether to clarify the scope of the injunction. On October 15, the carriers agreed that they would stop using RCOs to operate locomotives from the cabs until the arbitration is over. On October 16, Judge Gottschall entered an Order making that agreement enforceable in court. Specifically, the Agreed Order states:

"1. The carriers shall promptly issue and implement written instructions to all RCOs that pending a final decision by SBA No. 1114, RCOs shall not use the remote control operating units to effectuate locomotive movements from inside the locomotive cab, except in an emergency. A copy of such instructions shall be filed with the Court.

"2. If the BLE becomes aware of circumstances in which it believes RCOs are violating carrier instructions by using the remote control operating units to effectuate locomotive movements from inside the locomotive cab, BLE shall notify the highest labor relations officer on the affected property and give the carrier an opportunity to promptly correct the alleged violation. If the BLE believes that the carrier has failed to promptly correct the violation or to otherwise comply with this Order, it may return to Court to seek enforcement of this Order.

"3. The evidentiary hearing on the BLE's Motion for Clarification, scheduled for Thursday, October 17, 2002, is hereby canceled.

"4. The injunction entered January 16, 2002, remains in effect as to 'any disputes concerning the plaintiffs' use or plans to use remote control technology in the operation of locomotives in their terminal operations in and around terminals, or work assignments in connection therewith.' "

The Agreed Order is without prejudice to any party's position on BLE's motion or in the arbitration. BLE members are encouraged to report any incidents that are inconsistent with this Order to the union so that they can be brought to the attention of management and promptly corrected.


© 2002 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers