Reported by Joanna Marsh for Freightwaves.
The debate about how to manage visual inspections in the face of advances in safety technology continues. This time it’s railroad carmen defending the importance of visual inspections for brake testing and maintenance.
Union members are responding to Union Pacific’s request to the Federal Railroad Administration to extend a waiver governing UP’s test program for wheel temperature detectors (WTDs).
UP (NYSE: UNP) is asking FRA to allow the use of WTDs on intermodal trains operated on segments of UP’s system, as well as extend the distance at which visual inspections would be performed. UP has been using WTDs under normal operating and traffic conditions between the coal mines of Wyoming’s Powder River Basin and an unloading facility at White Bluff, Arkansas.
But union members say UP’s goal is to reduce visual inspections and save on overhead costs.
WTDs are “actually a useful device that’s clearly valuable as a complement to the inspections, but [the technology is] really about detecting the temperature on the rail,” Regan told FreightWaves. WTDs have “to be used as a complement to the inspections. A person is trained to see where there might be a defect, where there could be a problem down the road and what might need to be improved or upgraded or replaced in the near future. This device cannot do that.”
TTD also argued in a February letter to FRA that UP failed to gather and provide any evidence for review that the waiver should be renewed.
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