Detroit bans remote control locomotives

Under the leadership of City Council President Mary Ann Mahaffey, the City Council of Detroit, Mich., adopted a resolution on November 6 that banned the use of remote control locomotives within the city limits and called on the Federal Railroad Administration to adopt comprehensive regulations governing use of the technology.

Detroit is the second U.S. city to pass a resolution banning remote control locomotives, joining Baton Rouge, La., which passed similar legislation on September 25.

The Detroit resolution cites City Council's "duty to provide for the public safety of its Citizens" and "terrorist threats against railroads" as two reasons why it was adopted. On October 24, the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned that al Qaeda had threatened to attack American railroads - attempting to destroy key rail bridges and sections of track to cause derailments or targeting hazardous material containers.

The resolution also calls upon railroads to "cease and desist" from remote control operations in the city until the "Detroit agency responsible for Emergency Preparedness implements a plan to provide for evacuation and emergency response"

The November 6 resolution noted that the Federal Railroad Administration has only passed recommended "guidelines" to govern the use of remote control trains, and formally requested that the FRA issue enforceable regulations that "ensure the highest level of skill and qualification of persons operating remote control locomotives"

The resolution resolved that remote control locomotives cannot be used to transport materials on or near tracks occupied by hazardous materials. It also resolved that remote control locomotives cannot be operated over a public or private highway-rail grade crossing without "a person occupying the cab of the locomotive who has the required skills to stop the locomotive and its attached equipment."

The City Council's resolution requested that railroads equip remote control locomotives with "devices to secure the operating cab and its controls against terrorists, vandals and other unauthorized persons."

Greg Powell, Chairman of the Michigan State Legislative Board, worked to get the resolution adopted. He credited the Metro Detroit Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, for their assistance in contacting City Council, and singled out Donald Boggs and Shawn Ellis for their efforts. BLE Division 920 in Pontiac, Mich., recently affiliated with the Metro Detroit CLC.

He also thanked all BLE members in Michigan for their assistance, and singled out Legislative Representatives who took photos and documented the hazards posed by railroad companies allowing lesser-qualified employees to operate trains by remote control.

He recognized the efforts of: Frank Battaglia, Legislative Representative of Division 1 (Detroit), Ray Hernandez, Legislative Representative of Division 831 (Detroit), Ron Roach, Legislative Representative of Division 304 (Saginaw, Mich.), Dan Cook, Legislative Representative of Division 2 (Jackson, Mich.), and Phil Hoskins, Local Chairman of Division 542 (Detroit). He also thanked Jeff Cheney, a member of BLE Division 236 (Portland, Ore.), and Mike O'Brien, Chairman of the Louisiana State Legislative Board, for their assistance.

Detroit's November 6 resolution reads as follows:

RESOLUTION OF THE CITY OF DETROIT, MICHIGAN ON THE MATTER OF OPERATION OF REMOTE CONTROL LOCOMOTIVES BY RAILROADS WITHIN THE CITY LIMITS OF DETROIT, MICHIGAN.

Whereas: The city of Detroit has a duty to provide for the public safety of its citizens; and

Whereas: Railroads operate within the geographic boundaries of Detroit, over public and private highway rail crossings and on property accessible to persons of all ages and abilities; and

Whereas: MAC yard at Jefferson Ave, that services Chrysler, reported cases of lost radio signals between the operator and the engine - creating possible "runaway" train situations; and

Whereas: Railroad equipment is known to present significant danger to persons and property from collision, derailment, and possible release of hazardous materials; and

Whereas: A significant amount of rail cargo traveling through and moving within Detroit consists of hazardous materials; and

Whereas: The United States government has issued a safety alert against vandalism and terrorist threats against railroads; and

Whereas: Operation of a railroad is traditionally conducted with the use of locomotives manned by individuals who are rigorously certified and qualified by the standard established in 49 CRF part 240 but have significantly less training, testing, and qualification; and

Whereas: Railroads have requested from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and been granted authority to operate unmanned (remote controlled) locomotives by persons who are certified under the same 49 CFR Part 240 but have significantly less training, testing, and qualification; and

Whereas: These remote controlled locomotives will be operated by railroads in the City of Detroit without limitations, by fewer employees who possess diminished qualifications; and

Whereas: The FRA has issued "guidelines" and not regulations to provide for the implementation of these operations.

THEREFORE: Be it resolved that no railroad shall operate remote controlled locomotives within the boundaries of Detroit until all of the following safety considerations are met:

1. Any railroad operating a remote control locomotive must notify the Office of Mayor before implementing such operations;

2. Remote control locomotives cannot be used to transport hazardous materials on or near tracks occupied by hazardous materials.

3. Remote control locomotives cannot be operated over a public or private highway rail crossing without a person occupying the cab of the locomotive who has the required skills to stop the locomotive and its attached equipment.

4. A railroad must provide effective and reliable protection at the point of movement in any location accessible to the general public for any remote control operation.

5. Locomotives within a consist of one or more remote controlled locomotives be provided with devices to secure the operating cab and its controls against terrorists, vandals and other unauthorized persons.

6. Remote control locomotives are equipped with a clearly marked external device outside of the operating compartment, which is capable of stopping the locomotive in the event of a runaway.

7. An effective track related mechanical device to stop a remote control locomotive in the event of a runaway.

Be It Further Resolved: That the City of Detroit requests that in the interest of the safety of the Citizens of Detroit that the FRA develop comprehensive regulations for the use of remote control locomotives, and that those regulations ensure the highest level of skill and qualification of persons operating remote controlled locomotives; and

Be It Further Resolved: That all remote control rail operations in Detroit cease and desist until such time as the Detroit agency responsible for Emergency Preparedness implements a plan to provide for evacuation and emergency response before such remote control operations are implemented.

 

© 2002 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers