In the railroad industry today, there are usually two engineers on each freight train. But just as the automobile industry is talking about moving toward driverless technology, railroads are thinking the same.
Some believe the next step for railroads could be a one-man crew with a system to monitor the engineer’s performance. But there is a bill being considered by the Georgia legislature that would require two engineers on each train, and railroad companies are not pleased.
The idea of having only one engineer on a huge freight train worries some train conductors. One of those concerned is Jake Gohagan, who lives in Savannah. He was one of a group of railroad employees who visited the Capitol recently to lobby for the two-engineer bill, even though there was a risk of retribution from their employers.
Why do many railroad workers think two engineers should be required? One word: fatigue. Gohagan told the media at the Capitol that there are many times where engineers get called in at 1 or 2 a.m. They may have to report for duty when they have not had a full night’s sleep. He also noted that most train workers operate on call and can be called in any time, day or night. And that means they have no regular sleep schedule.
What helps to keep the engineers awake with this kind of hectic schedule? Talking to the other engineer or conductor that is on board with them. Also, co-workers on each train are able to keep one another updated on train trip details, such as the current weather and areas where the train needs to slow down for safety. Gohagan noted that as good as technology can be, it is made by man and it sometimes fails.
There are other good reasons to have two-man crews required in Georgia: If a crossing gate or barrier is not functioning, one worker must stop the cars and the other must drive the train. Or if there is a train breakdown, having another person there to help can make a major difference.
If there are not two people on the train, it is possible you could have the freight train blocking a major city intersection for many hours, as you wait for someone to come and fix the train.
Another problem is that more freight is being sent by rail these days, so trains are getting bigger and longer. Most train workers and stakeholders welcome more freight, as it means good news for the U.S. economy and more money for railroad companies. But longer trains are harder to operate; thus, it is safer to have more hands on deck on these bigger rigs.
Railroads oppose the Georgia bill because it means they have to pay more to operate each train, but we at The Mann Law Firm hope this bill passes so Georgians can stay safer.
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