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(Source: Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes press release, September 1, 2020)

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — The Federal Railroad Administration has broadened the railroads’ ability to use new rail inspection technologies, officially allowing continuous rail testing to satisfy FRA inspection frequencies.

The new rule would rescind the four-hour verification timeframe, which requires a follow-up, human inspection of any defect identified by a rail testing vehicle. Under the new rule, any on-track inspection vehicle can now find a defect and continue riding, speeding up the inspection process.

While the BMWED is not necessarily against the use of continuous rail inspection technology, we are concerned with the timeframe extension the new rule grants the railroad is remedying defects. This rule has created substantial gaps in ensuring track integrity and comes at the same time the FRA is considering replacement of track inspectors with other new technologies (namely drones), where we have elements of concern.

This new rule seems to be more focused on the railroads ability to more quickly run inspections in order to move train traffic. During the comment period before the FRA issued its final rule, the BMWED asked the FRA to shorten the remedial action table to correct and repair the defects. Our recommendation was not included in the FRA’s final rule despite our requests.

The BMWED has spent years working with the FRA, clearly demonstrating ways to achieve the intent of the final rule without compromising the safety of the railroad workers, the general public and the rail carriers track structure. But the FRA has clearly shifted from an administrative agency with the purpose and intent of implementing and upholding rail safety standards meant to protect rail workers and the American general public while ensuring rail carriers’ transportation of goods across the U.S., to an “anything goes” agency intent to promote rail carrier profits and shareholder gains.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

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