Originally posted by aboutface
RDI reports that the railroad company says it's possible that the air brakes were to blame. They issued a press release about the tragedy yesterday
Thank goodness, something that is understandable!
The release contains a little information that will answer some questions while suggesting a few more. The train was stopped at Nantes because the
crew did not have any more time to work in that tour of duty. Legal requirements limit the number of consecutive hours crews can work before stopping
and taking a mandatory rest period. Here in the States we can work 12 hours before being required to take at least 10 hours off (this is variable due
to several circumstances but is generally correct). This requirement is designed to increase safety by reducing the fatigue crews are subject to.
Railroad operating crews run on a constant state of borderline fatigue. This due to many factors, but is one reason rail careers are considered so
The release only mentions a train engineer, no conductor is included. I can only assume that this means the MMA runs trains with one man crews. If
this is true, it tells me most everything I need to know about the MMA. Single person crews are inherently unsafe. Large Class 1 railroads are unable
to run single person crews in North America at this time but they are clamoring after it like a bunch of rabid dogs. Short line railroads like the MMA
have much less restrictions on operating practices. Single person crews are unsafe because there are just too many things happening in a moving train
to be reliably controlled by one person. While concentrating on one aspect of movement another is missed. With two people in the cab there are two
sets of eyes, two brains and four hands. There have been many times in my career when that still wasn't enough. Since the 1980s train crew size in the
US has been reduced from 6 crew members to four, then to three, and now is two. Many short lines have gone to one and the big roads desperately want
to follow suit. Simply and solely due to greed. They have been aided in this quest by technology but technology seems to fail at the worst possible
time. If the MMA runs single person crews this tells me that management has a much higher concern for a dollar than they do for safety. I would expect
to find other lapses in maintenance and operating procedures.
The release states that the engineer secured the train before departing for his mandated rest period at a hotel. This is standard practice when a crew
has reached it's hours of service and no relief crew is available. I would expect that the reason no relief crew was available because the railroad
was attempting to run with an insufficient number of crew members. This is why train crews are constantly fatigued and is common industry wide.
"Securing" a train before leaving it unattended involves more than just the air brakes. It also involves leaving the train a certain length from any
switches, in a specific state of tension, and other considerations including physically applying a minimum amount of manual hand brakes on individual
cars. This is another process that is unsafe when done by a single member crew. With two people one is on the ground applying brakes and one is in the
cab maintaining control of the train in case of unexpected movement. These tank cars slosh around a bit even with the internal baffles and sometimes
cars will shift forward or back for quite some time after stopping.
After all the different securing processes are complete the operating rules specify that the crew will release all air brakes and ensure that the
manual brakes hold the train in place before re-applying the air brakes. This is to ensure that the train cannot move by itself. With a railroad that
runs single person crews, who knows what the operating practices are.
If the engineer completed all the required tasks as the release states he did, and performed the release test before departing for the hotel, there is
only one way this tragedy occurred. 'Someone would have to physically release the individual brakes on the cars and engines, then they would have had
to enter the cab and release the air brakes. They would then have to devise a way to prevent the alerter system from stopping the train automatically
after a short period.
In other words if the train was secured properly, what happened here was murder, pure and simple.
edit on 7/7/2013 by Montana because: (no