FRA Requests Information on Automation in the Railroad Industry

In March 2018, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a notice in the Federal Register wherein the agency requested comments from the public regarding railroad automation, and how this technology may impact the railroad industry going forward. This request encompassed the entirety of the railroad industry, and sought input on the impacts of automation on duties performed by operating and non-operating crafts of workers.

The Brotherhood Railway Carmen Division, TCU/IAM signed onto a joint comment with the American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA), the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET/IBT), the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS) and the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART). In addition, the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), of which TCU/IAM is a member, also filed comments as well.

The crux of these comments are safety and job security. Given the scope and potential impact of automation in the railroad industry, the unions maintained that it was the FRA’s responsibility to ensure that any actions undertaken to introduce automation would not jeopardize safety or undermine the jobs connected with rail commerce. FRA’s responsibility is especially important in this context because the implementation of new and untested technology could create untenable risks that will affect the entire national railroad network which moves millions of people and billions of tons of freight each year. In addition, the unions also noted that FRA should take action to promote labor practices which seek to address any job loss and displacement that occurs in these industries. “Regardless of the appeal of these technologies, they must not be deployed at the expense of safety or the railroad workforce,” said Carmen General President Richard Johnson. “While automated technology can assist railroad workers in better performing their jobs, we must be cautious with any technology which purports to entirely replace the skill and knowledge of railroad workers.”

Click here to read the comments submitted by the TTD.

Click here to read the joint labor comments.

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