February 9, 2023
Administrator Amit Bose
Federal Railroad Administration
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Administrator Bose:
On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO, we are writing to express our concerns about the safety of freight rail operations in the United States and to urge greater federal oversight of these operations.
For far too long, freight rail workers and unions have sounded the alarm about dangerous cost-cutting practices in the freight rail industry that pose real threats to workers and public safety.
In fact, derailments per train mile and incidents at rail yards have significantly increased on several major freight railroads since they adopted the Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) operating model in 2015. Major rail corporations have consistently cut corners at the expense of safety. Meanwhile, they raked in record-shattering profits last year.
Rail workers are the eyes and ears of the system. Yet worker perspectives about current and prospective safety incidents are not fully leveraged. We appreciate that the Federal Railroad Administration sponsors a voluntary program to enable employees to confidentially report “close call” safety incidents without fear of repercussion. Yet not one of the seven major U.S. freight railroads voluntarily use this program.
We urge the Federal Railroad Administration to require the seven major Class I railroads to adopt the Confidential Close Call Reporting System. We firmly believe that mandatory participation in this program will create a safer freight rail system and identify potential safety issues before they lead to dangerous catastrophes.
We know all too well the deadly consequences of freight train derailments. If there is no meaningful change in the industry, we fear that these safety incidents will unfortunately keep happening.