Crew size

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Crew size
Posted by Lithonia Operator on Saturday, February 1, 2020 8:45 AM

I just read this article: http://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2020/01/railroads-unions-butt-heads-on-crew-size-ahead-of-first-national-bargaining-meeting

Is this (any upcoming negotiations, whenever they might occur) solely about railroads wanting 1 person, and unions wanting 2? Or is it more complicated than that?

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Posted by jeffhergert on Saturday, February 1, 2020 9:02 AM

The carriers want to bargain at the national level, the union on a individual railroad level.  Plus there's supposed to be a moratorium in place that was agreed to by the carriers that they wouldn't reopen crew consist until the last trainman at the time of signing (protected employee) was gone.  That point in time shouldn't be that far off but when all you care about is cutting costs to funnel more money to Wall St, every penny counts.  The union's position is that they don't have to bargain until that point in time as been reached. 

Some railroads, or portions of them, due to legacy contracts still require a brakeman on trains that do a certain number of intermediate work events.  Or require a switchman helper on all yard jobs.

Jeff 

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Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, February 1, 2020 10:41 AM

I think one person in the cab is insane, even with PTC.   I would think you need the second pair of eyes as a check.   Also an extra safety margin in this era of sleep apnea when so many have that condition without even knowing it.

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Posted by Erik_Mag on Saturday, February 1, 2020 10:47 AM

FWIW, FAA regulations on crew size are tied to the size and performance of the airplane being flown. Only the smallest of the business jets are legal to fly with one person in the cockpit.

I suspect that the true costs (e.g. counting full costs of delays) are taken into account, a crew of two is probably optimum for all but the smallest trains. Problem is that "true costs" are a bear to determine so are ignored in favor of an easily calculable "cost". Note this is true of almost all industries. This is not unique to railroads.

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Posted by oltmannd on Monday, February 3, 2020 2:16 PM

Erik_Mag

FWIW, FAA regulations on crew size are tied to the size and performance of the airplane being flown. Only the smallest of the business jets are legal to fly with one person in the cockpit.

I suspect that the true costs (e.g. counting full costs of delays) are taken into account, a crew of two is probably optimum for all but the smallest trains. Problem is that "true costs" are a bear to determine so are ignored in favor of an easily calculable "cost". Note this is true of almost all industries. This is not unique to railroads.

 

Railroads (and, I guess other industries...) have a hard time counting up "soft" costs and savings.  My hunch is that railroads aren't ready for one man crews.  Trains and infrastructure are still too unreliable and ways to deal with trouble too primative to have universal one man train crews.

They want them, for sure.  They just don't know, or want to acknowledge, they're not ready.

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

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Posted by Falcon48 on Monday, February 3, 2020 6:19 PM

CMStPnP

I think one person in the cab is insane, even with PTC.   I would think you need the second pair of eyes as a check.   Also an extra safety margin in this era of sleep apnea when so many have that condition without even knowing it.

 

Based on this "safety" logic, all highway trucks should have 2 person crews.  After all, trucks don't operate on fixed guideways with limited public access.  They operate on public roads shared with other vehicles, including relatively frail and vulnerable passenger cars.  And trucks actually operate as "trains" in many parts of the county with multiple trailers.  Finally, the types of accidents that occur on RR's by operator error occur far more frequently with trucks.  For example, in the Port Defiance Amtrak accident, a train turned over entering a curve too fast.  How often does that really occur on railroads (and it will probably occur much less with PTC)?  But, if you live in a major city, it happens almost daily with trucks on urban expressways (just listen to the rush hour traffic reports in any large city).   

Bottom line: If you're advocating two person crews on trains but not on highway trucks, you're not doing it for safety reasons.   

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Posted by Juniata Man on Monday, February 3, 2020 6:30 PM

Falcon48

 

 
CMStPnP

I think one person in the cab is insane, even with PTC.   I would think you need the second pair of eyes as a check.   Also an extra safety margin in this era of sleep apnea when so many have that condition without even knowing it.

 

 

 

Based on this "safety" logic, all highway trucks should have 2 person crews.  After all, trucks don't operate on fixed guideways with limited public access.  They operate on public roads shared with other vehicles, including relatively frail and vulnerable passenger cars.  And trucks actually operate as "trains" in many parts of the county with multiple trailers.  Finally, the types of accidents that occur on RR's by operator error occur far more frequently with trucks.  For example, in the Port Defiance Amtrak accident, a train turned over entering a curve too fast.  How often does that really occur on railroads (and it will probably occur much less with PTC)?  But, if you live in a major city, it happens almost daily with trucks on urban expressways (just listen to the rush hour traffic reports in any large city).   

 

Bottom line: If you're advocating two person crews on trains but not on highway trucks, you're not doing it for safety reasons.   

 

 

C'mon Falcon; there is a heckuva difference between operating a tractor trailer by oneself and operating a two to three mile long train by oneself.

Trucks operate for the most part along routes where emergency services as well as food and rest areas are relatively accessible.  The same cannot be said for most rail routes.

Argue for one man crews all your heart desires but; to compare one man crews on freight trains to a solo driver on a long distance truck is apples to oranges.

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Posted by PJS1 on Monday, February 3, 2020 7:13 PM
The Texas Eagle, at least between Marshall and San Antonio, only has an engineer in the cab.  The conductor is in the transition sleeper or dining car or working the train.
 
The engineer calls the signals, and the conductor is required to affirm them.  But it is just one pair of eyes in the cab of the locomotive.  
 
I don’t know enough about freight train operations to know whether a second pair of eyes is necessary, but Amtrak has concluded that they are not needed in the cab for the Texas Eagle. 

Rio Grande Valley, CFI,CFII

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Posted by abdkl on Monday, February 3, 2020 9:18 PM
"The costs of counting cost more than the costs"
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Posted by charlie hebdo on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 7:36 AM

Direct costs are obvious.  Allocation of overhead is pretty fuzzy. And then there are those other costs,  often unknown at the time,  that show up later and paid for by the government,  i. e.,  the public. Recall the Superfund to clean up toxic wastes of corporations. Love Canal. Since 2001, the funding shifted to general revenues rather than from the consumers of products of the petrochemical industry. 

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Posted by Falcon48 on Wednesday, February 5, 2020 12:47 PM

Juniata Man

 

 
Falcon48

 

 
CMStPnP

I think one person in the cab is insane, even with PTC.   I would think you need the second pair of eyes as a check.   Also an extra safety margin in this era of sleep apnea when so many have that condition without even knowing it.

 

 

 

Based on this "safety" logic, all highway trucks should have 2 person crews.  After all, trucks don't operate on fixed guideways with limited public access.  They operate on public roads shared with other vehicles, including relatively frail and vulnerable passenger cars.  And trucks actually operate as "trains" in many parts of the county with multiple trailers.  Finally, the types of accidents that occur on RR's by operator error occur far more frequently with trucks.  For example, in the Port Defiance Amtrak accident, a train turned over entering a curve too fast.  How often does that really occur on railroads (and it will probably occur much less with PTC)?  But, if you live in a major city, it happens almost daily with trucks on urban expressways (just listen to the rush hour traffic reports in any large city).   

 

Bottom line: If you're advocating two person crews on trains but not on highway trucks, you're not doing it for safety reasons.   

 

 

 

 

C'mon Falcon; there is a heckuva difference between operating a tractor trailer by oneself and operating a two to three mile long train by oneself.

Trucks operate for the most part along routes where emergency services as well as food and rest areas are relatively accessible.  The same cannot be said for most rail routes.

Argue for one man crews all your heart desires but; to compare one man crews on freight trains to a solo driver on a long distance truck is apples to oranges.

 

There's very definitely an "apples to oranges" difference between one person operating a tractor trailer (which could have as many as 3 trailers in some states) and one person operating a 2-3 mile freight train.  The difference is that the one person train is far safer than the one person truck.  For one thing, the train is on a fixed guideway with only limited interface with pubic roads (typically  at grade crossings).  The truck does not operate on a fixed guideway.  It operates on public roads which it shares with all other kinds of other users.  The railroads have paid billions of dollars for automated safety systems (most recently PTC) which override engineer errors or inattention far more effectively than a separate set of human eyes ever could (assuming that the second set of eyes is open, and that the person owning them isn't distracting the engineer with irrelevant chatter).  Trucks have nothing even remotely like this.  If a truck driver falls asleep at 60 mph, a serious accident (probably involving other vehicles) is a near certainty.

Again, if you don't believe me, just listen to the rush hour traffic reports in any major city.  Rolled over semis  (usually due to excessive speed on curves) are nearly a daily occurrence.   The "safety" case for requiring a "second set of eyes" is far stronger for trucks than trains, particularly trains on PTC equipped lines.

There certainly may be operational reasons for two person crews on many trains (e.g., work en route, defect response, etc.) .  And, of course, crew size is a legitimate issue for collective bargaining.  But there's no "safety" case for requiring 2-person crews on trains but not on highway trucks    

 

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Posted by zugmann on Wednesday, February 5, 2020 1:00 PM

Falcon48
There certainly may be operational reasons for two person crews on many trains (e.g., work en route, defect response, etc.) . And, of course, crew size is a legitimate issue for collective bargaining. But there's no "safety" case for requiring 2-person crews on trains but not on highway trucks

how many trains have you operated?

 The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, February 5, 2020 1:53 PM

zugmann
 
Falcon48
There certainly may be operational reasons for two person crews on many trains (e.g., work en route, defect response, etc.) . And, of course, crew size is a legitimate issue for collective bargaining. But there's no "safety" case for requiring 2-person crews on trains but not on highway trucks 

how many trains have you operated?

How many road crossings with failed protection get flagged by a one person train crew?

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Posted by SFbrkmn on Thursday, February 6, 2020 3:16 PM
The last labor contract took three years to hash out and this one will take just as long. Section 6 notices by both sides are only a wish list and nothing else. Any contract discussions are a cause of concern, for now its is life as usual.
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Posted by blue streak 1 on Thursday, February 6, 2020 8:03 PM

BaltACD

 how many road crossings with failed protection get flagged by a one person train crew?

 

 
We can hear it now .  "The engineer can use his RCO backpack"
Or                       "just creep across the crossing don't get out"          
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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, February 6, 2020 10:44 PM

blue streak 1
We can hear it now.  "The engineer can use his RCO backpack" Or "just creep across the crossing don't get out"

'Alexa, advance the throttle to run 2 and release the independent"

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Posted by jeffhergert on Thursday, February 6, 2020 11:49 PM

blue streak 1

 

 
BaltACD

 how many road crossings with failed protection get flagged by a one person train crew?

 

 

 
We can hear it now .  "The engineer can use his RCO backpack"
Or                       "just creep across the crossing don't get out"          
 

Of course they will change the rules to fit single person operation.  Railroading history has examples of changes to rules over the years as technology has improved. 

Take automatic block signals for example.  The first ones displaying red couldn't be passed.  Then they could be passed after stopping and preceeded by a flagman.  Then it was decided that it wasn't necessary for the movement to be preceeded by a flagman.  Eventually the stop wasn't necessary, all trains could pass a red (nonabsolute) at restricted speed.  Even PTC allows this and can no longer provide positive protection in this instance. 

The changes didn't happen overnight, but over many, many years.  No reason to think it won't happen again for one person crews.  

Jeff

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Posted by tree68 on Friday, February 7, 2020 7:56 AM

Overmod
'Alexa, advance the throttle to run 2 and release the independent"

An aside:  One of the residents in our response area is wheelchair bound after a spinal injury, with very limited use of his hands and arms.  We occasionally get called there for various reasons.

On a recent visit there, he gave an order to "Alexa."  I don't think the ambulance crew member heard him say it, so she didn't respond, although her name is - Alexa...   

 

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Posted by Randy Stahl on Friday, February 7, 2020 8:53 AM
I prefer being alone on a freight train... just sayin..
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Posted by Falcon48 on Friday, February 7, 2020 4:24 PM

zugmann

 

 
Falcon48
There certainly may be operational reasons for two person crews on many trains (e.g., work en route, defect response, etc.) . And, of course, crew size is a legitimate issue for collective bargaining. But there's no "safety" case for requiring 2-person crews on trains but not on highway trucks

 

how many trains have you operated?

 

In response to your note, I’m not a professional railroad engineer.  I’ve operated extensively at a tourist railroad but that, of course, doesn’t count.
More to the point, prior to my retirement, I was part of the team responsible for safety regulation on two major Class I railroads.  In that capacity, I’ve ridden the head end of many trains, both freight and passenger, so I have a pretty good idea of what’s involved.  I’ve also seen some pretty bad examples of how the second person in the cab can distract the engineer.
 
I would point out that there are many trains which are operated today on main line railroads with only one person (the engineer) in the locomotive or controlling cab.  Most commuter trains and many Amtrak trains are examples.  True, these trains usually have a second person (the conductor) on board, but that person isn’t the “second pair of eyes” you claim is so important, and is normally not even in the cab.   PTC is a far better means of providing redundancy than a second person somewhere on the train.
 
I don’t deny that, given current technology, a second person on a freight train may often be needed for operational reasons – for example, switching en route or dealing with defects.  But these are operational issues, not safety issues, and have nothing to do with a “second pair of eyes”.  
 
Finally, anyone interested in this subject should read last year’s FRA decision withdrawing its minimum crew size rulemaking.  It’s available at:  https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-05-29/pdf/2019-11088.pdf
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Posted by jeffhergert on Friday, February 7, 2020 8:24 PM

Except current PTC fails when it is needed the most, operating at restricted speed.  That's really the time a second pair of eyes is most needed.

Jeff 

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Posted by samfp1943 on Friday, February 7, 2020 9:12 PM

Thanks, Falcon48:

 For providing that link to the Federal Register, An interesting read! 

Exercpted from the posted link:..

   https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-05-29/pdf/2019-11088.pdf

Final paragraph... "...This notice of withdrawal provides what the Supreme Court referred to as ‘‘negative’’ or ‘‘implicit’’ preemption. The Court recognized that ‘‘where failure of . . . federal officials affirmatively to exercise their full authority takes on the character of a ruling that no such regulation is appropriate or approved pursuant to the policy of the statute,’’ any state law enacting such a regulation is preempted.50After closely examining the train crew staffing issue and conducting significant outreach to industry and public stakeholders, FRA determined that issuing any regulation requiring a minimum number of train crewmembers would not be justified because such a regulation is unnecessary for a railroad operation to be conducted safely at this time. Thus, this notice of withdrawal provides FRA’s determination that no regulation of train crew staffing is appropriate and that FRA intends to negatively preempt any state laws concerning that subject matter. Issued in Washington, DC, under the authority set forth in 49 CFR 1.89(b). Ronald L. Batory, Administrator. [FR Doc. 2019–11088 Filed 5–28–19; 8:45 am]  ..."

 

 


 

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Posted by daveklepper on Saturday, February 8, 2020 11:45 AM

On a vehicle-mile basis, even counting one freight train as one vehicle, what are the serious-injury-and-fatality rate for trucks and for freight trains?

Maybe two pairs of eyes in a truck cab is a good idea?  Under today's technology?

Does any poster have the figures?

Granted that Postive Train Control does change the picture.

And something like it for highway travel seems way off in the future.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, February 8, 2020 12:57 PM

"Way off?"  Maybe sooner than we would imagine.  A new driverless, electric delivery vehicle got approval to operate sans steering wheel or brake pedal. 

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Posted by zugmann on Saturday, February 8, 2020 1:31 PM

Falcon48
In response to your note, I’m not a professional railroad engineer. I’ve operated extensively at a tourist railroad but that, of course, doesn’t count. More to the point, prior to my retirement, I was part of the team responsible for safety regulation on two major Class I railroads. In that capacity, I’ve ridden the head end of many trains, both freight and passenger, so I have a pretty good idea of what’s involved. I’ve also seen some pretty bad examples of how the second person in the cab can distract the engineer.

Thank you, sir.

---

Here's the thing.  We weren't born yesterday.  We know the reduction of crew sizes has to do with one thing, and one thing only: the bottom line.  I have no problem people arguing the point to that effect.  But don't try to pass it off as *anything* to do with safety.  Becuase it doesn't.  If there was anyh concern with safety, half of these PSR mandates/operating plans/cuts would have been stopped long ago.

 The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Saturday, February 8, 2020 3:08 PM

Randy Stahl
I prefer being alone on a freight train... just sayin..
 

Randy, I conclude that you are an engineer. Does your run typically involve no enroute switching?

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Saturday, February 8, 2020 3:10 PM

jeffhergert

current PTC fails when it is needed the most, operating at restricted speed 

Jeff, can you elaborate on this? Why doesn't it work at restricted speed? Is this true of all PTC systems, or just the one UP has?

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, February 8, 2020 3:33 PM

Lithonia Operator
Jeff, can you elaborate on this? Why doesn't it work at restricted speed?

I'm interested in his answer, too, but part of the issue is that PTC 'as mandated' has no way either to measure or assess what 'stop in half the visible distance' represents.  

We have synthetic vision systems and 'sensor fusion' that could approximate this (probably in part detecting the visible rails and comparing it to GIS/GPS mapping) but much of this is very recent, developed for autonomous vehicles, and not incorporated in any of the earlier (very expensive and complex) PTC implementation as built so far.

And it still wouldn't be as reliable as a directable camera, seen by a pair of Mk.1a eyeballs linked to a reasonably functioning human perceptive system... 

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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, February 8, 2020 3:37 PM

Lithonia Operator
 
jeffhergert

current PTC fails when it is needed the most, operating at restricted speed  

Jeff, can you elaborate on this? Why doesn't it work at restricted speed? Is this true of all PTC systems, or just the one UP has?

Restricted Speed is either 15 or 20 MPH depending upon the carrier - prepared to stop within 1/2 the range of vision for obstruction, broken rail or train ahead.

Restricted Speed is eyeball speed.  PTC does not have eyeballs, it depends on the eyeballs of the crew operating the train.  Intermediate Signals display 'Restricted Proceed' as their most restrictive indication - as long as the train with PTC is operating at or below the maximum speed for Restricted Speed at can proceed in accordance with the other visual requirements of Restricted Speed.

Restricted Speed is the railroads ONLY visual speed.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, February 8, 2020 3:41 PM

zugmann

 

 
Falcon48
In response to your note, I’m not a professional railroad engineer. I’ve operated extensively at a tourist railroad but that, of course, doesn’t count. More to the point, prior to my retirement, I was part of the team responsible for safety regulation on two major Class I railroads. In that capacity, I’ve ridden the head end of many trains, both freight and passenger, so I have a pretty good idea of what’s involved. I’ve also seen some pretty bad examples of how the second person in the cab can distract the engineer.

 

Thank you, sir.

---

Here's the thing.  We weren't born yesterday.  We know the reduction of crew sizes has to do with one thing, and one thing only: the bottom line.  I have no problem people arguing the point to that effect.  But don't try to pass it off as *anything* to do with safety.  Becuase it doesn't.  If there was anyh concern with safety, half of these PSR mandates/operating plans/cuts would have been stopped long ago.

 

I don't think the motivation for one-man engine crews can possibly be in doubt. Whether that will maintain the current level of safety is questionable.  Finding additional means of enhancing safety should be the goal. 

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