“Just because an industry CAN do something doesn’t mean an industry SHOULD be doing it!” emphasized Fritz Edler, a veteran railroader with experience as a rail freight car builder and repairer. Edler has worked in many capacities, from maintaining tracks and bridges to running high speed trains. Based in Washington D.C., Edler has broad rail industry knowledge regarding infrastructure, energy, environmental impact, and economics for heavy and light rail (freight and passenger) in national and international contexts. Beginning in 2015, Edler headed the international defense effort for the rail workers who were scapegoated after the horrific 2013 Lac-Mégantic volatile oil train wreck.
Edler spoke to La Coalition members at the August campaign planning meeting about his many grievous concerns for the current state of the rail industry. Sharing his broad rail industry knowledge, Edler addressed the scapegoating of railroad engineers after the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster, the scandal leading up to the loosening of regulations that now allow the rail transport of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), and the role of rail as part of America’s Green Transportation future.
Edler encourages the public to:
1. Oppose Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), which strips away protections and safeguards, encouraging risky industry decision-making that jeopardizes engineer and public safety. PSR focuses exclusively on lowering the “Operating Ratio” to satisfy Wall Street and Hedge Fund investors at the expense of all other factors, including the basic rail transport of goods. PSR is now the subject of Congressional inquiries.
2. Demand Sane Scheduling and Uninterrupted Rest Time that will mitigate out-of-control crew fatigue.
3. Oppose longer trains. Technological advances have allowed the operation of longer and heavier trains than ever before, yet safety standards do not address this change in industry standard. Longer, heavier trains shift costs onto trackside communities in multiple ways. They greatly increase wear and tear on rail infrastructure without requiring increased inspection and maintenance. Additionally, longer trains (100+ cars over a mile long) significantly increase the potential of blocking railway crossings, which not only results in public inconvenience, but also risks disabling emergency response vehicles that may need to wait up to 15 minutes for a train to pass.
4. Require and publicly review the adequacy of emergency response plans (including Fire and Hazmat) for all changes in freight traffic.
5. Demand the minimum of a two-member crew on every train. Some operations require more workers to adequately protect both crew and trackside communities. Three to five engineers on a train are optimal.
6. Regulate railroads as the public utilities they have historically been. Limit the power of hedge fund and Wall Street involvement in the industry, which promote industry profits over public safety.
7. Demand appropriate maintenance and oversight of railroad corridors.
8. Demand restoration of meaningful Whistle-Blower Protections with significant penalties for evasion and misconduct. Whistle-Blower protection is essential for guaranteeing railway safeguards.
9. Support railroad upgrade efforts that include critical safety and operation improvements for both freight and passenger service, especially railroad crossings that address both safety and public convenience. Upgraded railroad crossings are a prerequisite for most expanded and improved rail passenger services and higher speed freight services.
10. Support railroads as a vital component in America’s Green Transportation Future. Press legislators to support Green New Deal and High Speed Rail legislation that guarantee the inclusion of rail projects, which advance freight and passenger services.
Last, Fritz advises the public to be skeptical when considering support for new advances in railroading, such as remotely operated trains. We need to avoid new problems in an already compromised industry.
Come join our next Rail Safety Campaign planning meeting on Monday, September 13th at 7:00p to see what you can do about this very important issue. Contact Gerri Songer at GSongerTrainCampaign@gmail.com for more information.
The Rail Safety Campaign conforms to the guidelines set by the Sierra Club’s Clean Power Lake County community agreement and includes underserved communities as identified under Environmental Justice policy to reduce persistent environmental health disparities.