US railroad labor issues

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dwebarts

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Canoe Racing

A Japanese company (Toyota) and an American company (General Motors) decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.

On the big day, the Japanese team won by a mile. The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the reason for the crushing defeat. A management team made up of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action. Their conclusionwas the Japanese team had 8 people rowing and 1 person steering, while the American team had 8 people steering and 1 person rowing.

So American management hired a consulting firm and paid them a large amount of money for a second opinion. They advised that too many people were steering the boat, while not enough people were rowing. To prevent another loss to the Japanese, the American's rowing team's management structure was totally reorganized to 4 steering supervisors, 3 area steering superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager. They also implemented a new performance system that would give the 1 person rowing the boat greater incentive to work harder. It was called the "Rowing Quality First Program," with meetings, dinners and free pens for the rower.

There was discussion of getting new paddles, canoes and other equipment, extra vacation days for practices and bonuses. The next year the Japanese won by two miles. Humiliated, the American management laid off the rower for poor performance, halted development of a new canoe, sold the paddles, and canceled all capital investments for new equipment. The money saved was distributed to the Senior Executives as bonuses and the next year's racing team was outsourced to India.
Truth.
 

jis

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A NEC train is not the same as a 2-mile long freight train. And I seem to recall that the single-man crew may have contributing factor to the Lac Megantic disaster in Canada.

But that does not justify legislating two person crew for all. That justifies tasking the FRA to come up with appropriate regulations identifying situations where two person crew must be used.

I am generally leery of legislatures trying to do things that they have low understanding of, instead of yielding to professionals in the field.
 

Michigan Mom

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I can understand being leery of legislators who may not fully appreciate some of the nuance, but I'm ten times more leery of owners who have cut staffing to increase profits. They are also not railroad professionals. At least the unions have relevant expertise. And the legislators have to at least pretend to care about constituents. They've got staff at their disposal who can provide research on short notice for any subject matter. Yeah it's a problem, there is tremendous, shall we say, variety among legislator competence. Still. The investors who view railroads as means for personal enrichment, and who can't stomach the thought of being less rich, are demonstrably perfectly willing to absorb the occasional accidents, injuries and deaths. As long as the profits are there, and they can take use profits to buy back stock, it will not interfere with their sleep one iota. It just won't.
 

zephyr17

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I don't know if this is a acceptable comment for the mods, but I'll accept its deletion without complaint.

This was a huge showdown and for once it was management that blinked. Both sides were dug in on the attendance policy issue and the union got the core of what they were justifiably fighting for. Management had been equally adamant that they did not want the unions in their attendance policies, but were the ones to back off.

I find that a good sign for what appears to be the beginning of a renaissance for private sector organized labor, with other, smaller, victories such as organizing some Amazon warehouses and some Starbucks. I have never been a Union member and historically have been skeptical of them. But have come to the conclusion they have to regain their rightful place in the marketplace, after decades of diminishment, as a needed check on the excesses of management and "shareholder value".
 

railiner

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Speaking of legislators…anyone recall when Indiana law required “full crews” on freight trains?
Engineer, Fireman, Head Brakeman on the locomotive; Conductor, Brakeman, and Flagman on the caboose…

Yes, a six man crew. That they are now wanting to run a train with only one person, is remarkable in that context...
 

Trogdor

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Why is the dictum that "a two person crew is better" not open to analysis to the extent that it is considered to be appropriate to mandate it under all circumstances? Inquiring minds want to know. What safety is going to improve on the NEC in the presence of ACSES and all that by placing a second crew member in the cab? If two is better is three even better?

“Two-person crew” doesn’t necessarily mean both crew have to be in the cab. The NEC already has two-person crews (actually, all generally have three-person crews and some may even have four-person crews). Every train has an engineer and a conductor, and 1 or 2 ACs.
 

Barb Stout

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One fine day, I found a cam of a freight train passing by that was going slow enough that one could count the cars. I counted somewhere between 900-1000 cars. If the length of a train car is 55.5 feet, as Ms. Google says some are (and also listed others at just shy of 68 feet), then that would end up being a 10-mile train. Who wants to be the only person on a 10-mile-long train? Who thinks that's an ok idea?
 

Devil's Advocate

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For context, for one that knows, what are the freight rail worker rules in other countries, like Germany and China, for example??
Other countries have different labor rules but also haul more compact rolling stock made into smaller trains with shorter stopping distances. Trains in the US are some of the longest anywhere and must contend with commercial vehicle impacts. I have never seen US-spec tanker cars routinely traveling through major industrialized cities outside of North America. Canada would probably be the closest comparison but their safety culture is nothing to emulate.
 

Trollopian

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Trains in the US are some of the longest anywhere and must contend with commercial vehicle impacts...

Commercial- and passenger-vehicle impacts. The length of U.S. trains is one reason that drivers at some scantily-protected crossings try to "beat the train," sometimes with catastrophic results. We have threads on those.
 

Devil's Advocate

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Commercial- and passenger-vehicle impacts. The length of U.S. trains is one reason that drivers at some scantily-protected crossings try to "beat the train," sometimes with catastrophic results. We have threads on those.
Good point. Many passenger vehicles are a limited threat but North American sized pickups and SUV's are large and heavy enough to derail a train.
 

GDRRiley

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But that does not justify legislating two person crew for all. That justifies tasking the FRA to come up with appropriate regulations identifying situations where two person crew must be used.

I am generally leery of legislatures trying to do things that they have low understanding of, instead of yielding to professionals in the field.
2 man crews should be the norm and the RR need to justify why this operation should be a 2 man crew.
Good point. Many passenger vehicles are a limited threat but North American sized pickups and SUV's are large and heavy enough to derail a train.
a pickup or SUV will not, even a limo or light truck will struggle to derail a loco however cab cars can struggle with large pickups.


One fine day, I found a cam of a freight train passing by that was going slow enough that one could count the cars. I counted somewhere between 900-1000 cars. If the length of a train car is 55.5 feet, as Ms. Google says some are (and also listed others at just shy of 68 feet), then that would end up being a 10-mile train. Who wants to be the only person on a 10-mile-long train? Who thinks that's an ok idea?
55ft is short for a car, most are 70-80ft now. That would be an insanely long train, longest ones I know of end up at around 15,000-18,000ft and have 2 sets of DPUs.


given how class 1 will operate I feel like a 4 days on 3 days off is what the unions should be pushing for. The other option is a rolling average like pilots where they can only fly a set number of hours in the last 28 days and on the job a set number. Again you'd need 2 counts, away from home and operating time. 528 hours every 28 days away from home and a maxmium of 240 hours operating. that would mean max 20 12 hour days and away from home 22. Plan it 6 weeks in advance
 
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Jack Davis

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One fine day, I found a cam of a freight train passing by that was going slow enough that one could count the cars. I counted somewhere between 900-1000 cars. If the length of a train car is 55.5 feet, as Ms. Google says some are (and also listed others at just shy of 68 feet), then that would end up being a 10-mile train. Who wants to be the only person on a 10-mile-long train? Who thinks that's an ok idea?
I would think if that looooooooonnnnng train kept it's speed down (slow enough to count the cars) then it can STOP if necessary. BUT, where will it find a 'pull out siding' long enough to handle its length to allow another train to pass? In that case, NO. But, they're out there and 'somebody' says it's OK.
 

jis

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“Two-person crew” doesn’t necessarily mean both crew have to be in the cab. The NEC already has two-person crews (actually, all generally have three-person crews and some may even have four-person crews). Every train has an engineer and a conductor, and 1 or 2 ACs.
Indeed. I was thinking of the case where there has to be two engineers in the cab, and was merely stating that such thing should not be legislated. Using that approach in a bit of political victory it had at one time been strongly believed that there needs to be three man crew, and it took forever to finally get rid of the third redundant man.

An engineer and one or more conductor in today's technology environment seems quite reasonable in most cases. But as we know there is the endless discussions that are ongoing about OPTO in certain restricted environments. And in certain cases abroad, like the Dubai Metro, the only crew on the train is security personnel. The operation is entirely automatic. These sorts of advances should not be legislatively disabled for environments where they make sense.

Incidentally I learned that on Brightline unlike on Amtrak, there is clear separation between operating and OBS crew. The operating crew (Conductor and Engineer) generally sit in the cab. The OBS crew mans the train and provides on board service.
 
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Sec/Labor Marty Walsh was mayor of Boston and we gave up a really good guy! It looks like from the above video President Biden appreciated Marty’s negotiation efforts. Hardworking, wonderful communicator, progressive and pursuing a positive outcome are some traits in his character.
He was in NYC last
Saturday for our LD Parade as Grand Marshal and seemed relaxed and confident when I spoke to him outside of the Cathedral before the Parade.
 

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joelkfla

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Incidentally I learned that on Brightline unlike on Amtrak, there is clear separation between operating and OBS crew. The operating crew (Conductor and Engineer) generally sit in the cab. The OBS crew mans the train and provides on board service.
Is there a Service Manager over the OBS, or is each car attendant their own boss?
 

jis

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Is there a Service Manager over the OBS, or is each car attendant their own boss?
There apparently is an overall service manager, sort of equivalent of a Purser on an airliner. Also it is not clear that there is a per car designated attendant. There is a set of attendants that serve the train according to some plan apparently.
 

railiner

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Incidentally I learned that on Brightline unlike on Amtrak, there is clear separation between operating and OBS crew. The operating crew (Conductor and Engineer) generally sit in the cab. The OBS crew mans the train and provides on board service.
Isn’t that also the way VIA Rail works?
 
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Tentative agreement is due the need of the members of the Union to Vote on the contract. So pretty sure it going to happen.
According to Trains' Newswire this is timeline for the ratification of the new labor agreements. Target date is November 17, just in time for Thanksgiving.

*****
"On Sept. 22 the BLET began a 15-day question and answer period during which general chairmen will reply to the national president’s office with any questions or clarifications regarding the tentative agreement.

“Those questions will be consolidated into a single document, and the BLET’s National Wage Team, alongside SMART-TD, will return to the bargaining table with the Carriers to mutually agree upon the answers to those questions,” the BLET said.

Once the Q&A session is complete, ballots will be distributed on or around Oct. 14, with the BLET tentatively set to tally the votes on Nov. 17."
 
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