FRA cites UP for violation after SMART TD tip
CHICAGO — The Federal Railroad Administration told SMART Transportation Division it has filed a violation against the Union Pacific Railroad in response to a union complaint that the railroad ordered a train crew to work outside its assigned territory while being piloted by a manager who was not qualified on the physical characteristics of the territory.
FRA Region IV Administrator Steve Illich informed SMART TD Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy of the agency’s action in a letter dated October 27.
The incident under investigation by the FRA was reported to the Illinois Legislative Board by a member of the crew of a Bloomington-based local assigned to UP’s Springfield Subdivision.
Although the southern boundary of the territory for which the crew was qualified ends at Milepost 222, Carlinville, Ill., the May 28 job was ordered to retrieve some maintenance-of-way equipment spotted at milepost 234 near Shipman, Ill., 12 miles further south in territory over which none of the crew members were qualified.
“The standard procedure in such cases is to supply the crew with a pilot, normally a fellow transportation employee, who is qualified over the territory,” Guy said.
“But it turned out the UP manager assigned as pilot wasn’t qualified on that territory either,” Guy said. “In fact, he had never been over that track on a moving train, and he not only admitted his lack of qualification but claimed it wasn’t important.”
In his report to the SMART TD Illinois State Legislative Board, the conductor said that he and the engineer, “made it very clear that we were not comfortable having a pilot that he himself [admitted] was not qualified on the territory. His reply was that it was CTC, how hard could it be?”
The conductor asked the manager whether he had a copy of the work orders for the assignment. The manager allegedly replied that all he needed to know was that the ballast undercutter, two flat cars and two hopper cars of ballast were restricted to 25 miles-per-hour.
“The only paperwork I saw was that he had a timetable,” the conductor told the legislative board.
Guy said the crew handled the incident in exactly the right way.
“They notified the manager pilot that they weren’t comfortable,” Guy said. “Then once their tour was over they documented the incident and forwarded the details to local SMART TD officers for handling.”
“The FRA investigator in charge even noted the accuracy of the crew members’ statements regarding the manager pilot,” Guy said. “Once confronted, another UP manager stated that the pilot was not qualified on that segment of track.”
Guy also said he was “appalled” by the cavalier attitude of the manager pilot as witnessed by the crew involved in the May 28 incident.
“It’s not just that this official violated Part 240.231 of Section 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations,” Guy said. “It’s that he did it in such a flagrant and dismissive manner.”
Guy said the manager’s attitude is even more inappropriate in view of the territory where his violation occurred.
“The UP main line between Joliet and Alton has been one continual construction zone so it can be upgraded for 110-mph Amtrak service,” Guy said.
“This territory is full of equipment and manpower, and the track and bridge work migrates to different locations every day,” Guy said.
“Slow orders, Form Bs and other notices related to train movements can be issued and abolished quickly, which is why a crew unfamiliar with the track needs a pilot who knows not only the geography of the alignment but the way the railroad is using it from moment to moment.
“If a train crew is not familiar with the pilot assigned to their job, they should always question the qualifications of that pilot to determine if in fact the person is suitable to serve in that capacity.”