Crew size

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Posted by SD70Dude on Monday, February 10, 2020 11:56 AM

I prefer working with someone with common interests.  Talking helps me stay awake. 

It sucks to get a trip with someone who is having a bad time at home, or falls asleep in the chair, or just stays silent and stares out the window. 

Saturnalia - the railroads will soon find a way around any regulation like that.  And clauses like that in union contracts are not worth the paper they aren't written on anymore.  'Do it now, grieve it later'.

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Posted by Saturnalia on Monday, February 10, 2020 11:36 AM

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.

 

It would seem logical that such an agreement to go to one-man crews would include a provision for no intermediate work events - at least without localized help - and a set maximum train length. Railroads might bite on some one-man crews - say non-key trains shorter than 7500' in PTC territory. That would allow non-hazardous unit trains such as grain and coal to move with a single operator, while disallowing the sort of 12,000 foot land barges that are becoming more common. 

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Posted by tree68 on Monday, February 10, 2020 7:22 AM

Lithonia Operator
I have to admit, thinking back on my approximately 6-8 cab rides, I usually asked a lot of questions initially, but pretty quickly got the message that I should mostly keep my trap shut.

Non-crew in the cab can be a distraction.  I get them occasionally.  They're generally immensely grateful, but trying to balance hospitality with doing what I'm there for has to go to doing the job.

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Posted by girarddepot on Sunday, February 9, 2020 10:43 PM
Has anyone figured out the labor cost per ton mile for a trtuck as opposed to rail? If not, someone ought to. Might enlighten a few perspectives.
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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Sunday, February 9, 2020 10:00 PM

Did you just find most conductors too talky, and you personally didn't care to listen?

Or was it more that you found the distraction a significant safety compromise.

I have to admit, thinking back on my approximately 6-8 cab rides, I usually asked a lot of questions initially, but pretty quickly got the message that I should mostly keep my trap shut.

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Posted by Randy Stahl on Sunday, February 9, 2020 5:41 PM

Lithonia Operator

 

 
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?

 

No switching enroute. I am still working for a railroad but not as an engineer currently. 

I've made at least a hundred 117 mile trips alone and crossed an international border to boot. My average trains were 9000 ton ( eastbound) and 8000 feet.

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Posted by jeffhergert on Saturday, February 8, 2020 5:41 PM

Both as an engineer and conductor, I've been able to spot a broken rail.  One time, when a conductor we got stopped with it under the lead engine.  Others we were able to stop before it.  Not being able to stop before it is not a violation.  Not stopping once you see it, or think you've been over one is.  That's why when a train runs over a suspected broken rail, it's reported as "rough track" to the dispatcher.  (A while back someone had the radio conversation of the CPRS train in the Quad Cities reporting their derailment to the CPRS dispatcher on another thread about that derailment.  The engineer actually said they went over a broken rail over the radio.  If you knew there was a broken rail, WHY DIDN"T YOU STOP?)

I've noticed it's easier for the engineer to spot a broken rail on the conductor's side rail, and vice-versa.  It's easier to spot one at night, the break is really shiny.  You also have to be going at a speed that would allow one to stop. 

Getting back to PTC.  PTC knows when a block is occuppied by the signal governing entrance to the block.  It doesn't know why the block is showing as occuppied.  It knows where hand throw switches are, but not how they're lined.  (PTC asks to verify how the switch is lined when closely apporaching them.)  If there is a train ahead, it doesn't know where the end of the train is.  If there is a broken rail, it doesn't know where it is.  

When operating at restricted speed, it's up to the crew to make sure they operate prepared to stop for potential obstructions.  Engineers now, I don't know if it's all PTC railroads, have to have an annual stop test under PTC restricted speed conditions because of this. 

Jeff

 

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Posted by SD70Dude on Saturday, February 8, 2020 4:23 PM

Broken rails are very difficult to spot from the engine.  In my experience you find most of them by feeling the 'bump'.

Here is the Canadian (CROR) definition.  Slow Speed is 15 mph.

RESTRICTED Speed
A speed that will permit stopping within one-half the range of vision of equipment, also prepared to stop short of a switch not properly lined and in no case exceeding SLOW speed.

When moving at RESTRICTED speed, be on the lookout for broken rails.

When a broken rail is detected, the movement must be stopped immediately and must not resume until permission is received from the RTC or signalman.

Greetings from Alberta

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Posted by zugmann on Saturday, February 8, 2020 4:12 PM

Not the broken rail, though.

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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, February 8, 2020 4:08 PM

zugmann
 
BaltACD
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. 

Sorry, I have to correct this.  It's looking out for broken rail, not stopping prior to.  You have to stop prior to other train, obstruction, or misaligned switch.

And I said it 1000x times before, but I alwyas repeat it:  restricted speed is not a speed, but a METHOD OF OPERATION.

And if you 'get into' any to the things mentioned - you have exceeded Restricted Speed and generated EVIDENCE of the violation.

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Posted by zugmann on Saturday, February 8, 2020 3:50 PM

BaltACD
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.

Sorry, I have to correct this.  It's looking out for broken rail, not stopping prior to.  You have to stop prior to other train, obstruction, or misaligned switch.

And I said it 1000x times before, but I alwyas repeat it:  restricted speed is not a speed, but a METHOD OF OPERATION.

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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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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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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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