It’s not often that I find myself in agreement with the National Transportation Safety Board. Not only is it infrequent, it’s downright uncomfortable. Truth be told, nothing worries me more than finding myself in agreement with a government agency, or a panel of experts, or the vice president operations of whatever railroad I happen(ed) to be working for at the time.
Author: David Schanoes
I confess to being a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to railroads. Not orthodox, not conservative and certainly not rigid, but a traditionalist. For example, I think a railroad line officer is a trainmaster and not a transportation manager, operations services supervisor or anything else. I’m a traditionalist, so I never thought I’d have to argue certain fundamentals. Silly, traditional me.
The news of the day the other day read “Train Engineer in Fatal 2016 Hoboken Train Crash Wins Back Job with NJT.” The locomotive engineer, Thomas Gallagher, had been dismissed after over-running the end of Track 5 in Hoboken Terminal. The resulting collision damaged the supports for the train shed roof. A woman not on the train but walking on a platform was killed as she was struck by the collapsing structure.
We’re celebrating a whole lot this year. We’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, recognizing the right of women to vote. I know a few of us are celebrating the 155th anniversary of Sherman’s March to the Sea, breaking the back of the Slaveholders’ Rebellion.
I have this friend, a railroad professional. I know I would never question his commitment to safety. I hope he wouldn’t question mine. This friend is concerned that railroad management will unfairly use medical information it obtains from employees, from employees’ medical care providers, and from the requirements of a medical fitness for duty regulation, to disqualify employees from service. He fears railroads will weaponize the information.
Not that long ago, E. Hunter Harrison’s methods and strategy for CSX were subject to close scrutiny, tough questioning, much doubt, some head scratching (close 8 of 12 hump yards, anyone?), customers complaining, labor opposition and STB inquiries. All of that and more was in response to Hunter’s trademarked program of “Precision Scheduled Railroading.”
You know what? I kind of like National Transportation Safety Board member Earl F. Weener, who has been an NTSB member since 2010.
The Federal Railroad Administration has issued a Draft Safety Advisory, 2018-01, Related to Temporary Signal Suspensions. For the first time I can recall, FRA is soliciting public comment “on all aspects of the Draft Safety Advisory.”
What a world. FRA is on Twitter and Facebook and YouTube. NTSB is on Twitter and YouTube, and might be on Facebook, but I don’t know since the NTSB website doesn’t say one way or another, and I’m not on Facebook or Twitter, and not, to my knowledge on YouTube, or if I am, it’s not my doing, I promise.
We knew back in September 2017, when NTSB announced its board meeting to review and approve the findings of the investigations into the bumping block collisions at Hoboken and Atlantic Terminals, that come Feb. 6, 2018, NTSB was going to, ever so loudly, publicly hand FRA its head, a weirdly appropriate turn for a regulatory body still without a head.