WASHINGTON (CN) – A railroad brakeman was killed after telling an engineer to back up a train and then walking behind the train, and a contractor at a rail company was killed walking in front of a moving train. Each was talking on a cell phone.
These descriptions and three others are used as examples in a proposed Transportation Department, Federal Railroad Administration rule codifying restrictions on cell phone use and “other distracting electronic devices” by railroad operating employees.
In another example, five crew members on two moving trains had made 22 personal cell phone calls in the three and a half hours before they hit head-on, killing an engineer and severely burning a conductor. The accident derailed five locomotives and 28 cars, and dumped 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel, which caught fire. Damages were estimated at $2.6 million.
The agency’s proposed rule to prevent such incidents would codify most of the requirements of an agency Emergency Order on the subject. Some revisions account for calculators, cameras to take photos of hazards, and the use of electronic devices by employees riding the train to resume duties. GPS devices would not be allowed under the rule. Railroad radios would still be allowed, and small railroads would be able to use cell phones as wireless railroad phones.
The FRA specifically requests comment regarding whether violations of this proposed rule should be a basis for revoking a locomotive engineer’s certification.
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