Author: William C. Keppen, Jr.

Shareholder Value, or Public Safety?

Date: Sept. 27, 2019. News media outlets report potential life threatening situations with three different Class I railroad freight trains blocking railroad grade crossings, sometimes for hours at a time. These events seem to be increasing, both in number and length of time. Americans are not just inconvenienced. Lives are being place at great risk when a blocked crossing impedes emergency service providers from assisting people in need of help.

Lesson Learned? Perhaps, But Too Late For Some

A recently issued arbitration decision directs New Jersey Transit (NJT) to re-employ Thomas Gallagher, the locomotive engineer who in 2016 ran an NJT commuter train into a bumping post and onto the platform at Hoboken Terminal. While the arbitrator found that the engineer “… bore some responsibility for the crash,” she also found that, “… NJ Transit had failed to follow its own procedures for screening engineers in his case.”

PSR: For employees, pain, no gain

Six out of the seven Class I freight railroads in operating in the U.S. (including CN’s and Canadian Pacific’s subsidiaries) have implemented or are in the process of transitioning to Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR). While programs and processes will certainly vary from one railroad to another, all are likely designed around five foundation principles, as defined in 2016 by CP and the late Hunter Harrison during its aborted merger attempt with Norfolk Southern.

Precision Crew Scheduling: What would Hunter say?

I knew Hunter Harrison when he was a Burlington Northern trainmaster and I was a BLET Local Chairman, all those many years ago. Today, as Hunter’s Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) is rolled out on six of the seven Class I railroads, I’ve come to believe that PSRis not a destination, but a never-ending journey. At least that’s how I see it.

The clock is running on untreated OSA

Timely accident investigations are critical to the future of safe transportation operations, for a number of reasons. First, they must begin expeditiously. As the clock runs, evidence can deteriorate or become corrupted. Witness memories of events fade, sometimes to the detriment of actual fact-finding. Second, the search for cause factors and efforts to remediate are delayed, leaving people and property at risk of more accidents and incidents caused by the same risk factors. Third, as time passes, other accidents and incidents demand investigation, putting a strain on investigatory resources.

The folly of hearings and fines

Railway Age Editor-in-Chief William C. Vantuono, writing about the most recent congressional hearing on Positive Train Control, as well as attempts by some Members of Congress to arm-twist the Federal Railroad Administration on granting exemptions, opined, “I’ve said it before many times, but it’s always worth repeating: Politics should not be involved in safety. Why engage in politics at this stage of the game? What is the agenda here? Who or what is behind this?”