Monday, January 26, 2015

Public Safety: Railroads want to roll the dice

How much of a degree of safety do you want?

By Pat Corp    01/26/15

Pat Corp, of Roanoke, is the Virginia State Legislative Director for Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and  Transportation Union and a locomotive engineer by trade.

Re: the Dec. 26 article “Railroads want only one person at helm of trains”:

The article quotes Allan Zarembski “It’s a question of how much of a degree of safety do you want?”

That statement truly is spot on. There are so many situations in society where we can do things a certain way but choose differently for various reasons. The railroad industry seems to be ramping up its efforts to justify reducing from two crew members down to one. Only certain trains to begin with, they say, but I imagine if you give them that inch, the mile isn’t far behind.

Using technology to justify the use of one person to operate a train instead of two would make sense to me also if I were a for-profit business and thought this allowed me the opportunity to cut labor costs dramatically — it is just natural to a capitalistic business model. Unfortunately, this same minimalist model is devoid of any sense of duty in relation to public concern or public safety, and typically remains so until a calamity drives up the cost of that model. With our nation’s railroads running through just about every major and moderately sized metropolitan center, and with the sheer volume of hazardous material they carry, we cannot afford to roll the dice on safety.....

....There is more to handling trains than going from point A to point B. Trains can be more than two miles in length at times. Train crews can’t just pull over to use the bathroom, or stop and get a cup of coffee, or pull into a rest stop for a quick 30-minute nap. Most train crews have no set schedule and are called to work on just two hours’ notice, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including almost all holidays. I can tell you from personal experience that having the other person in the cab of the locomotive is lifesaving at times. We who run the trains welcome technology that adds a level of safety to train operations and lessens the hazards of the environment we work in, but not the use of that technology to open the door to riskier operations.....   more here


Age of Oil Ending?  ...Oil prices plunging to a five year low sparked a wave of downsizing in an industry desperate to  rid itself of stranded assets; meanwhile renewable energy markets are booming with ‘100 % renewables’ on the climate action plan,  and civil society grassroots movements are winning major campaigns to divest mega-investments from fossil fuels and leave oil in the ground.

Oil Train Spills Hit Record Level in 2014  ... "They've got accidents waiting to happen," said Larry Mann, the principal author of the landmark Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970. "Back in 1991 I said, 'One day a community is going to get wiped out by a freight train. Well, in 2013 that happened and unless something changes it's going to happen again." 

Breached pipeline that spilled oil lies exposed on riverbed  ...GLENDIVE, Mont. (AP) — Sonar indicates part of an underground pipeline that spilled almost 40,000 gallons of oil into Montana's Yellowstone River and fouled a local water supply is exposed on the riverbed.....Prior accidents, including a 2011 Exxon Mobil pipeline spill on the Yellowstone near Billings, have demonstrated that pipelines beneath bodies of water can quickly become exposed by floodwaters or other natural forces.


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