NS Petitions FRA for Relief from Brake System Safety Standards

Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) has petitioned the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for a waiver of compliance from certain provisions of the Federal railroad safety regulations regarding refresher training for mechanical inspectors. Specifically, NS proposes to create a 3-D simulation using web-based software to satisfy the “hands-on” portion of the training required by 49 CFR 232.203(e), in connection with periodic refresher training. Refresher training is required at intervals not to exceed three (3) years, and shall consist of classroom and hands-on training, as well as testing.

The Brotherhood Railway Carmen (BRC) has joined with other rail unions to oppose NS’s petition for waiver because the requested relief will not ensure the same level of safety as provided by the current Federal regulations. Among other things, the unions specifically complained to FRA that simulated testing should be used only as a supplement to, and not a replacement for, the hands-on training currently required by 49 CFR 232.203(e). This has also been the position of FRA as well. “While a 3-D simulation described by NS is beneficial, it cannot replace the “hands on” training that railroad employees currently receive in the field,” says BRC General President Richard A. Johnson. “For instance, training in the field provides variating challenges such as weather or incidents where an inspector’s olfactory senses are useful in conducting inspections; these are factors that a computer cannot simulate.”

Click here to read the BRC comments

Click here to read the TWU comments.