Judge rules RCOs can access locomotive cabs to sound whistles/horns or bells

U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall ruled on November 12 that Remote Control Operators (RCOs) are allowed to access locomotive cabs for the purposes of sounding whistles/bells or horns.

The parties agreed to an order, which Judge Gottschall entered on October 16, which basically stated that RCOs were not allowed to effectuate train movements via remote control while in the cab of the locomotive. Part of the order mandated that the rail carriers issue written instructions to RCOs to that effect.

However, it was these written instructions that brought the BLE and Carriers to court again on November 12.

BLE took exception to a portion of the carriers' written instructions, which read, "[t]his means that while an RCO is in a locomotive cab, he or she may not use the speed, brake, or direction controls on the OCU [but] ... may still enter the locomotive cab for any other purpose, including: ...(4) using the whistle, horn, or bell."

Judge Gottschall decided in the Carriers' favor on this issue, ruling:

"In its motion to enforce the Agreed Order, BLE argues that 'using the whistle, horn or bell is an integral part of effectuating locomotive movements' (Def.'s Mot. at 1-2), and thus contends that plaintiffs' instructions allowing the RCOs to sound the whistle, horn or bell while in the cab violate the Agreed Order. Given the plain, unambiguous language of the Agreed Order, the court disagrees. Under the Agreed Order, RCOs cannot use the remote control units to effectuate locomotive movements from inside the cab. The sounding of a whistle, bell or horn may be a federally-mandated safety prerequisite for any locomotive movement, but the sounding of such warning devices simply does not effectuate the movement of the locomotive.

"This ruling is limited to a construction of the language of the Agreed Order. The court expresses no opinion on the merits of the parties' disputes, which are scheduled to be addressed in arbitration in the immediate future."

The arbitration hearing over the carriers' assignment of remote control operation of locomotives to non-engineers was held on Nov. 18 and 19.


© 2002 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers