As published by BNSF Conductor and SMART Transportation Division member Mike Rankin in The Hill.
On December 23, 2004, near Streator, Illinois, three teenagers ignored flashing lights and drove around the gates at a railway crossing. A train struck their car. Two teenagers lost their lives that night. One survived.
I know because I was the conductor on that train. I also know that if it wasn’t for the timely response by me and my colleague — the train’s engineer — I’m not sure anyone would have survived.
This matters because railroads want to cut costs by operating freight trains with a single crew member. Luckily, our government understands that people and safety must never be compromised when operating massive freight trains. Earlier this year, the Federal Railroad Administration released a proposed regulation requiring that most freight trains be operated with two crew members. This is a good first step, but the proposal doesn’t apply to all freight trains, and doesn’t require that the second crewmember be a conductor. If safety is the top priority, two qualified crew members — a conductor and an engineer — are needed on all freight trains.
Conductors and engineers work together to safely get trains to their destinations, and during an emergency, our teamwork is critical. As a conductor, if and when emergencies occur, it is my job to get off the train, assess the situation and address any life-threatening issues. It is the engineer’s job to stay on board, communicate with dispatchers and other trains in the area, and make sure that the locomotive is secure. That’s exactly what happened on that horrific night in 2004.
Read more in The Hill.