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Not Sure

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Member since: Mon Oct 24, 2005, 04:04 PM
Number of posts: 566

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A couple things

There's a lot right with this report, such as the AAR is a group not unlike the API, but for the benefit of railroad companies and that there is a push by the AAR and railroad companies to eliminate layers of safety to save money. However, I have to take issue with some of the issues and how they are characterized in this report.

First, every section of rail in the US has one or more speed limits on it, and the maximum speed is determined by the type of train, total weight, number of brakes, and other considerations. So, to say that regulators are balking at any kind of speed limit without acknowledging speed limits already in place misrepresents this issue. Additionally, speed limits are enforced vigorously on the railroads I've dealt with and discipline is often harsh and can include termination of employment.

Second, I don't think it's fair to claim that these trains blow up a lot. There have been explosions, most notably the deadly Lac Megantic explosion last year when an unattended crude oil train rolled downhill and derailed after a fire had been extinguished on one of the locomotives. Other explosions resulting from derailments have not caused casualties so much as damage to the rail and adjacent railcars. However, I don't wish to gloss over the danger since any of these other explosions could have resulted in casualties. That being said, millions of gallons of crude oil and ethanol are transported daily without derailments, leaks or explosions. In spite of the sensational nature of these recent accidents, the safety record is still good.

Finally, I want to make a point that organized labor is steadfastly against any of the changes proposed by the oil and rail industries, such as not making hazmat routes available to communities or unmanned trains or more restrictive speed limits for hazardous cargo. Those of us who operate these trains know we have an obligation to our crew, our coworkers, our families and to the communities we travel through to operate our trains as safely as possible and we must never compromise safety in the name of production or maintaining a schedule. Changes proposed by the companies we work for such as engineer-only trains are part of the problem and not acceptable to maintain a safe workplace or keep the communities we travel through safe (the train at the center of the Lac Megantic disaster was an engineer-only train).

Any help we can get to push for the proposed legislation requiring a minimum two-person crew on all trains would be greatly appreciated. Whether you believe transporting crude oil by rail is safer than by pipeline (I believe it is safer for the public and the environment) isn't so much the point, we need to ensure that all trains, hazmat or not, have enough crew members aboard to perform any of the tasks necessary in an emergency or just during normal operations. It's only through following safety standards and protocols and bolstering them when we learn they are ineffective can we keep our communities safe. Efforts by industry groups to undermine safety standards and protocols should be recognized for what they are - cutting corners to save dollars instead of lives.
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