SMART TD opposes auto control systems in FRA letter

Published: January 25, 2016

Last updated on February 17th, 2016

In a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Associate Administrator for Safety Robert Lauby, SMART Transportation Division’s National Legislative Director John Risch called on the FRA to issue an emergency order prohibiting the use of auto control systems.

In his letter, Risch maintained that the FRA should regulate these systems, just as cell phones and interaction with Positive Train Control (PTC) systems currently are. Currently, Union Pacific Railroad is using Locomotive Engineer Assist/Display & Event Recorder (LEADER) and BNSF is using Trip Optimizer.

Risch says that this technology may be in violation of the FRA final rule 49 CFR Part 220, which states “a railroad operating employee shall not use an electronic device if that use would interfere with the employee’s or another railroad operating employee’s performance of safety-related duties.”

Risch does point out that the rule does not include electronic control systems and information displays within the locomotive. However, interaction with LEADER and Trip Optimizer systems is not a safety-related task and does pose a risk of distracting the crew from safety-related tasks.

Auto control systems are mechanisms to reduce fuel and operating costs through increased efficiency.

Click here to read Risch’s letter to the FRA in its entirety.