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Western Railroad Discussion > Decent read on PSR
Date: 11/08/19 07:08
Decent read on PSR
Yes, it's from a rail labor group (Transportation Trades Dept. of the AFL-CIO), but I think it's pretty spot-on.
PRECISION SCHEDULED RAILROADING THREATENS TO GUT AMERICA’S FREIGHT RAIL SYSTEM
Since the first U.S. freight trains departed from Baltimore nearly 200 years ago, the freight rail industry has served as the backbone of domestic commerce, providing reliable, safe and responsive service and in the process creating and sustaining good union jobs. The success of the rail industry is premised on the fair treatment and utilization of its frontline workforce, balanced economic regulations and an expectation that railroads will meet their service obligations. Unfortunately, the introduction of an operating model known as Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) threatens to weaken these conditions and undermines our freight rail industry.
Freight railroads today are generating record revenues and operating at high levels of efficiency. But for some, these profits are not enough. To satisfy their outsized needs, short-term investors and hedge fund managers have forced PSR on large segments of the freight rail industry. This decision is not based on what is best for customers, workers, or even the long-term needs of the industry—it is about satisfying what Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio described as the “Wall Street Jackals” who now dominate this sector.
Whereas carriers once sought to accommodate shippers’ unique requirements and schedules, PSR dictates that rail cars operate on a set and often arbitrary schedule, arriving and departing at specific times regardless of the needs of its customers. PSR proponents claim that this improves train velocity—how quickly they can move trains from one location to another. However, we know the ultimate goal of PSR is to cut every possible corner and to slash every penny out of a capital-intensive industry that needs a long-term perspective to survive.
Mass layoffs have been a disturbing and central component of PSR operations. In just the first two years after CSX implemented this model, the carrier fired 22% of its equipment maintenance workers, 16% of its train crews and 11% of its maintenance-of-way employees. In a 2018 interview, Union Pacific’s CEO proudly stated that, “We're in the process of eliminating about 500 jobs [and] there's more of that to come.” Railroads may want us to believe these workers are extraneous, but it has become clear that reductions are simply about cutting costs, even if those cuts result in the degradation of safety. Workers who remain have been forced to do more with less, and are faced with discipline or dismissal if they refuse to comply. The consequences of these choices are no longer hypothetical.
As carriers that have prescribed to PSR run fewer trains, understaffed shop craft facilities are reporting increasingly idle locomotives and equipment, but lack the workforce to keep the equipment in a state of good repair. In some cases, carriers are closing facilities entirely, increasing the workload for employees elsewhere who are already overwhelmed.
Carriers are also compensating for reduced staffing by requiring remaining employees to perform work outside their craft in addition to fulfilling their regular duties. At best, this may involve employees performing tasks with which they are not experienced. At worst, employees may be forced to do work for which they are not qualified. Furthermore, rather than maintaining appropriate staffing levels, carriers are mandating overtime for workers who are already stretched thin. In an industry where fatigue is a constant risk factor, exposing employees to additional fatigue by asking them to work longer and faster while performing multiple jobs is a recipe for disaster.
When TCU and IAM conducted a survey of their members on the impacts of PSR, the answers painted a deeply disturbing picture of day-to-day operations. One responding machinist reported being sent, by himself, to work with dangerous and heavy equipment that once required two workers, and expressing fear that no one would know to call for help if he was injured. A carman wrote that at his yard, management now demands brake inspections be performed at the extraordinary and unsafe pace of just 60 seconds per car. Employees of both crafts say critical safety rules designed to protect employees from being hit by equipment are being ignored in the name of speed. Numerous employees stated that re-shift safety briefings—a common industry practice—are being eliminated in order to better utilize man-hours. And commonly, carmen are being forced to ignore FRA defects. One consistent theme emerged throughout the responses: railroads value getting trains moving and moving quickly above all else, including safety.
Rail carriers are also increasingly turning to longer and heavier “PSR-optimized” trains to increase efficiency. A recent GAO report found average train length has increased by approximately 25 percent since 2008, and carriers are regularly operating trains up to three miles long. Frontline workers told GAO they are not receiving adequate training on how to safely operate these longer trains. And current rail networks are simply not designed for trains of this magnitude, which risks delays to both freight and passenger service. Furthermore, local communities are not included in discussions about the use of longer trains in their jurisdictions that often block grade crossings and can make it difficult for emergency personnel to respond if an incident does occur. The FRA has failed to address the substantial safety challenges these operations present.
In fact, the FRA has done nothing at all to address PSR’s effect on safety. Recently, on a private conference call to FRA employees, a senior staff member dismissed PSR issues as mere “hiccups.” Yet, FRA’s own data shows far more than just a hiccup. Derailments, fatalities, and collisions have all increased over the last several years. Accidents involving injuries to Class I carrier employees will increase across most railroads in 2019. The total number of employees injured at Kansas City Southern and Union Pacific have already surpassed these carriers’ employee injury totals from 2018. The Class I carrier slated to do better in 2019 is BNSF. Not so coincidentally, BNSF is the only carrier who has not moved to PSR.
Between reports from frontline employees and the FRA’s own data, it is clear that PSR puts rail workers and the public at real and unacceptable risk. The FRA must take aggressive action to address these concerns before conditions further erode. The agency should start by not ignoring safety violation reports filed by frontline workers that describe a culture on PSR carriers that is not conducive to safe operations. More broadly, the FRA needs to conduct detailed analysis of modern rail operations—even when the letter of the law or regulation is not being explicitly violated—in order to prioritize safe operations.
We are also deeply concerned with the impacts of PSR on the future viability of freight rail and existing networks. At a recent hearing on the subject, witnesses discussed a Tennessee Pringles factory nearly driven out of business due to delays in shipments, a Kellogg plant that had to suspend production entirely, and federal intervention that was required to get grain moving to Florida farms. Even while providing substandard service, railroads are padding their pockets with fees they assess when shippers cannot comply with the carrier’s demanding schedule. In 2018 alone, Class I’s levied a record $1.2 billion in fines against shippers. The lack of compatibility between PSR and customers’ needs has even led to questions of whether carriers who have adopted PSR are abiding by their common carrier obligations. While Wall Street may enjoy the fruits of this model now, it presents long and short-term risks of pushing away customers whose business models rely on freight rail service.
Impacts to shippers will have far-reaching economic effects. In 2017, freight rail networks moved approximately $174 billion worth of goods. Disrupting the flow of commerce by degrading service or cutting off rail shipping options entirely will have cascading effects throughout sectors that directly or indirectly rely on freight rail to move their goods.
Precision Scheduled Railroading works for the few—wealthy investors who have little concern for anything other than their bottom lines. These investors are fickle, and when they have extracted every last cent out of the railroad industry, they will move on to the next sector. Meanwhile, we will be left with a hollowed-out system that does not serve its customers, has abandoned safety, and has pushed out thousands of skilled workers who may never return. This trajectory can be changed, but doing so will require active engagement from Congress and federal safety and economic regulators, as well as a serious rethinking of operational strategy from freight rail carriers. TTD calls on them to reverse the damage caused by PSR before it becomes too late.
Policy Statement No. F19-03 Adopted October 29, 2019
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/08/19 07:32 by trainjunkie.
Date: 11/08/19 08:13
Re: Decent read on PSR
One of the biggest challenges is that railroads are self regulating in many ways. Engineers and dispatchers can take medicines that would disqualify them from driving a truck or being an Air Traffic Controller because there are no every reailroad can set its own medical standards. Bridges and other structres are inspected soley by the railroads and there is no accessible database to see the last time anything was inspected or repaired. The CFR does provide some standards, but it is very limited.
When a business polices itself it's hard for any type of outsider to know what's going on much less influence change.
Date: 11/08/19 08:55
Re: Decent read on PSR
One man crew on a night freight is about as chilling a thought I can have. Just human nature that someone will go to sleep and that 2.5 mile train behind him--------------.
Date: 11/08/19 09:03
Re: Decent read on PSR
I think this union statement should be REQUIRED reading for EVERY class 1 officer from the bottom of the totem pole to the very top. At the very least it will hopefully cause some serious debate?? Hope springs eternal.
Date: 11/08/19 09:54
Re: Decent read on PSR
> One man crew on a night freight is about as
> chilling a thought I can have. Just human nature
> that someone will go to sleep and that 2.5 mile
> train behind him--------------.
That's very easily solved.
Date: 11/08/19 10:01
Re: Decent read on PSR
I read this on another website earlier and will concur with Trainjunkie that the message is spot on.
Posted from iPhone
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/08/19 10:02 by Juniata.
Date: 11/08/19 10:58
Re: Decent read on PSR
> One of the biggest challenges is that railroads
> are self regulating in many ways. Engineers and
> dispatchers can take medicines that would
> disqualify them from driving a truck or being an
> Air Traffic Controller because there are no every
> reailroad can set its own medical standards.
> Bridges and other structres are inspected soley by
> the railroads and there is no accessible database
> to see the last time anything was inspected or
> repaired. The CFR does provide some standards, but
> it is very limited.
> When a business polices itself it's hard for any
> type of outsider to know what's going on much less
> influence change.
I don't know what devildragon cave you live in but railroads are allowed to "self regulate" so long as our rules are in conformance with FRA's 49 CFR rules. If a railroad is part of the National Rail System (as well as some tourist operations) FRA periodically inspects (along with or seperate from State inspectors) signals, track, motive power, hours of service records, drug/alcohol compliance and most everything else.
The recent yearly bridge inspection requirements requires our bridges to be inspected annually by a LICENSED BRIDGE ENGINEER. No longer is someone with years of experience maintaining these bridges allowed to perform these inspections except as a foreman supervising bridge repairs. This costs shortlines thousands of dollars a year and eats up a lot of bridge maintenance budgets and has caused some shortlines to curtail operations over certain track segments.
In closing, I believe the railroad industry is the safest it has been in years because of the pride we take in establishing and following rules that are tailored to our particular operational challenges but still comply with the CFR in order to maintain a working relationship with our regulators / inspectors.
Richard Samuels; General Manager
Oregon Pacific Railroad Co.
Date: 11/08/19 11:15
Re: Decent read on PSR
An excellent (but older) companion article to the one I posted above.
When Doing More with Less Poses a Threat
By Dennis R. Pierce, BLET National President
(BLET Editor’s Note: The following message from BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce has been excerpted from the April/May 2019 issue of the Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen News.)
INDEPENDNENCE, Ohio, June 13 — In my most recent President’s Message I wrote about the Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) phenomenon in the railroad industry, and how PSR focuses on “asset maximization” in an effort to sharply drive down operating ratio, which is the percentage of railroad revenue spent on operating costs.
This focus on operating ratio suggests that railroads are not very efficient. Data published by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) show otherwise.
Between 1980 and 2016, traffic density tripled, from 5.58 million ton-miles per mile of road to 16.99. And, today, railroads can move one ton of freight 479 miles on one gallon of fuel, which is double the fuel efficiency in 1980.
AAR also acknowledges that productivity gains by locomotive engineers and trainmen over the past four decades are similarly dramatic:
“From 1980 through 2017, rail employee productivity (measured by ton-miles per employee) rose 467 percent; locomotive productivity (measured by ton-miles per locomotive) rose 93 percent; and average freight carried per train rose 63 percent. The most commonly used broad measure of rail-industry productivity — ton-miles per constant-dollar operating expense — was 159 percent higher in 2017 than in 1980.”
We all know that efficiency and productivity have continued to soar in more recent years. Two of the most obvious changes in productivity are the ever-increasing use of Distributed Power (DP) locomotive consists as well as the operation of longer and longer trains.
When I testified before Presidential Emergency Board No. 243 in October of 2011, I demonstrated the productivity of BLET members by showing the Board’s members a video of a train operated from Dallas, Tex., to Long Beach, Calif. by Union Pacific in January 2010. This train consisted of 9 locomotives and 294 cars, and measured 18,000 feet in length, nearly 3½ miles long.
The make-up of the train was as follows: 3 locomotives, followed by 98 cars, followed by two more locomotives, followed by another 98 cars, followed by another two locomotives, followed by a third group of 98 cars, with two additional locomotives bringing up the rear. This basically was three trains coupled together — with a pair of helpers on the hind end — and a single locomotive engineer was charged with the responsibility of controlling and operating this behemoth. As a credit to the engineer’s professionalism, the train arrived safely at its destination.
And in past months, both UP and BNSF have begun combining two loaded coal trains and operating them as a single train on multiple routes across the country. Again, thanks to the experience and professionalism of the involved train crews these trains arrived safely.
As a result of these changes, much of the increase in productivity to which the AAR points is the result of locomotive engineers and trainmen doing more work than one person did in earlier years.
That is where the history of improved productivity and its relationship to working class Americans starts to change. For more than 30 years after World War II, increases in productivity led to parallel increases in median wages. Strong unions fighting for and winning a fair share of increases in productivity by union members is what built and sustained the American Middle Class during this period.
But by the late 1970s, union concentration in America was in serious decline. In 1981, then-President Reagan declared open season on unions by decimating the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization. This anti-worker attack was accompanied by an ever-increasing tilt in favor of Corporate America by Congress.
As a result, median U.S. wages, adjusted for inflation, have been stagnant for the past 40 years. Productivity has continued to increase, but most of the new wealth generated by workers’ increased productivity was retained by the corporations.
Although locomotive engineers, trainmen and all other railroad workers fared much better than many other Americans over the years due to their Union contracts, railroads routinely dismiss our increased productivity when it comes to payday.
This fall we will undertake another round of national bargaining. Unfortunately, we begin in a climate that is openly hostile to working men and women, and to the unions that represent them. As we approach negotiations, railroads continue to be highly profitable, in large part due to operational changes, many of which are at the expense of the workforce. At the same time, railroads routinely assert that they need even more relief to compete with the trucking industry.
All the while the railroads give little if any credit whatsoever to their workers for the increased productivity that they freely concede has occurred. Instead, the carriers claim, it’s all due to the technology, as if these 2 and 3 mile long trains ran themselves.
In fact, the AAR figures I quoted above were included in comments the Association filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation concerning automation in the transportation industry. Once again, the carriers sought to create a platform to advocate eliminating another crew member. This time the so-called threat is driverless trucks, as if the cost of a single crew operating a 100-car double stack train equated to the number of truck drivers that would be needed to carry the same number of trailers. And one carrier went so far as to identify fully-automated train operations as a goal.
In 1954, United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther toured the Ford Motor plant in Cleveland. A company official pointed out some new automatically controlled machines and asked Reuther “How are you going to collect union dues from these guys?” Reuther replied, “How are you going to get them to buy Fords?”
Our industry and our Nation face the same potential problem Brother Reuther identified 65 years ago; the pursuit of new technology threatens jobs in the drive to improve productivity. Even more important is the impact that additional crew size reductions are certain to have on the safety of railroads employees and the general public.
Making our struggle even tougher, on May 24 the Federal Railroad Administration took sides with the carriers, announcing that it would withdraw a proposed rule requiring two-person crews on certain freight and passenger trains. FRA went a step further by attempting to preempt state laws that mandate a minimum crew size, even though there is no governing federal regulation. This was in spite of the fact that during the public comment period for the proposed regulation, the FRA received 1,545 written statements in support of train crew requirements, while just 39 comments opposed crew size regulation.
Our greatest challenge is that the rail industry seems hell-bent on risking public safety for a few dollars more at the expense of already highly productive, highly trained and highly professional train crews. Trains so long that long standing technology such as two way telemetry is rendered inoperable is a risk that railroads are willing to take, but this profit driven operation puts our lives, and the safety of the general public, at risk. Whether it be trains so long that they challenge a safe operation, or additional attempts to reduce below a two-person crew, we must have a Federal Railroad Administration that will do its job and regulate the safety of the operation. Railroads have long fought all attempts to be regulated, but history makes it clear that safety regulations have made the railroad workplace safer. Profit-driven railroads won’t always do that on their own.
All of this means that we must unite in our fight to protect a safe workplace, and that must include us casting our votes for politicians that actually care about workplace safety. The politicians at the State level brave enough to pass the State crew size laws that FRA is now demeaning must be on that list. Those U.S. Representatives in Congress supporting our Federal Safe Freight Act (H.R. 1748) must also have our support when it comes time to cast our votes. We have just been reminded of the power the Federal Government has over our workplace; we deserve a Federal Government that works for us working class Americans, not just for corporate America.
Thursday, June 13, 2019
Date: 11/08/19 20:20
Re: Decent read on PSR
A couple of thoughts on a few of the policy statements' points:
> When TCU and IAM conducted a survey of their
> members on the impacts of PSR, the answers painted
> a deeply disturbing picture of day-to-day
> operations. One responding machinist reported
> being sent, by himself, to work with dangerous and
> heavy equipment that once required two workers,
> and expressing fear that no one would know to call
> for help if he was injured. A carman wrote that at
> his yard, management now demands brake inspections
> be performed at the extraordinary and unsafe pace
> of just 60 seconds per car. Employees of both
> crafts say critical safety rules designed to
> protect employees from being hit by equipment are
> being ignored in the name of speed. Numerous
> employees stated that re-shift safety
> briefings—a common industry practice—are being
> eliminated in order to better utilize man-hours.
> And commonly, carmen are being forced to ignore
> FRA defects. One consistent theme emerged
> throughout the responses: railroads value getting
> trains moving and moving quickly above all else,
> including safety.
I am sure there are isolated incidents such as mentioned above; but if you go back through the TO archives, you can also find similar complaints about staffing levels and work requirements over the last 20 years - long before PSR. Are some areas understaffed? Absolutely. Do carriers continue to try to get more from their existing employees? Certainly. Is it because of PSR? It may contribute, but it is a trend that has been around for a lot longer than the PSR "concept".
> Rail carriers are also increasingly turning to
> longer and heavier “PSR-optimized” trains to
> increase efficiency. A recent GAO report found
> average train length has increased by
> approximately 25 percent since 2008, and carriers
> are regularly operating trains up to three miles
2008 or so was the beginning of the digital communication DPU era. Trains have been getting longer since that technology has been proven reliable in most cases. Does PSR take advantage of this technology? Yes, but again, the trend started long before PSR was being implemented.
Frontline workers told GAO they are not
> receiving adequate training on how to safely
> operate these longer trains.
And yet, reportable incidents and employee on duty injuries are down from 2012 through 2018 (last full year). Statistics are shown below from the FRA data base.
And current rail
> networks are simply not designed for trains of
> this magnitude, which risks delays to both freight
> and passenger service. Furthermore, local
> communities are not included in discussions about
> the use of longer trains in their jurisdictions
> that often block grade crossings and can make it
> difficult for emergency personnel to respond if an
> incident does occur. The FRA has failed to address
> the substantial safety challenges these operations
When you have double track for most of the entire distance on a major corridor, 10,000 - 12,000 ft trains do not significantly affect meet/pass ability. Where you don't have that type of infrastructure, the railroads either don't run many 10,000+ foot trains (BNSF Northern Corridor) or they make adjustments to allow longer trains in one direction (UP's Canyon Sub). CN expanded many of their sidings to 12,000 feet to accommodate that length of train, then immediately started running 15,000' westbound trains. So the EBs hold the siding while the WB holds the main, and meet/pass is workable across the route.
Terminals can be an issue, but if you have 6,000 foot arrival/departure tracks (which many older terminals do), even a 7,000 foot train has to be doubled in (or out). So arguments can be made that even longer trains (10,000+) don't create that many more headaches, while reducing the number of trains moving through the terminal.
As to FRA addressing the "problem" of longer trains on communities, all it takes is money to build more grade separations. But that is not a railroad responsibility, since in most cases, the railroad granted crossing access to the street traffic rather than the other way around.
> In fact, the FRA has done nothing at all to
> address PSR’s effect on safety. Recently, on a
> private conference call to FRA employees, a senior
> staff member dismissed PSR issues as mere
> “hiccups.” Yet, FRA’s own data shows far
> more than just a hiccup. Derailments, fatalities,
> and collisions have all increased over the last
> several years. Accidents involving injuries to
> Class I carrier employees will increase across
> most railroads in 2019. The total number of
> employees injured at Kansas City Southern and
> Union Pacific have already surpassed these
> carriers’ employee injury totals from 2018.
If you cherry pick a specific year over year, you can certainly find uptrends. But if you look at 2012 through 2018, CN, CP, CSX, NS and UP (the major PSR accolates) all have declining numbers of incidents (FRA data base). The numbers are:
CN 72 to 38 (PSR via EHH since around 2007)
CP 32 to 7 (PSR since 2013)
CSX 208 to 193 (PSR since 2017)
NS 176 to 164 (PSR since 2017 or thereabouts)
UP 511 to 386 (PSR since 2018 or thereabouts)
And employee injuries:
CN 121 to 114
CP 101 to 42
CSX 214 to 140
NS 243 to 237
UP 550 to 218
While not all this time frame featured PSR for all the railroads, these stats did all occur while train length was increasing and efficiency practices were being implemented.
> Class I carrier slated to do better in 2019 is
> BNSF. Not so coincidentally, BNSF is the only
> carrier who has not moved to PSR.
But BNSF's is also increasing train length and asking employees to be more efficient (super pools, remote switchers, etc). These are the same criteria that the statement is correlating with the negative effects of PSR.
> Between reports from frontline employees and the
> FRA’s own data, it is clear that PSR puts rail
> workers and the public at real and unacceptable
Only if you cherry pick the last year for specific railroads. If the last years' trends continue for the next 5 years AND the railways stick with the tenants of PSR, then you have data that justifies this type of statement. Right now, you have a couple of points on a very underpopulated graph.
I personally am not for or against PSR - to me, it is just another evolution of the rail industry. Many similar past evolutions were touted as being the end of the industry, and yet time has proven they have made the industry more efficient and safer. A true assessment of the effects of PSR won't likely be available for at least another 3 or 4 years, and by then, who knows how the industry will change again? But I understand why the statement was made, and why many employees agree with parts of it. I do think it would be more effective if both sides of the argument were presented and it still supported the claims against PSR, but then again, most "policy statements" only cite the side that supports their statement.
Date: 11/08/19 21:37
Re: Decent read on PSR
> I am sure there are isolated incidents such as
> mentioned above; but if you go back through the TO
> archives, you can also find similar complaints
> about staffing levels and work requirements over
> the last 20 years - long before PSR. Are some
> areas understaffed? Absolutely. Do carriers
> continue to try to get more from their existing
> employees? Certainly. Is it because of PSR?
> It may contribute, but it is a trend that has been
> around for a lot longer than the PSR "concept".
I don't know which carrier you work for but if you have your ear to the ground, you will find that the level this is occurring now is unprecedented. I am hearing this from many railroaders, system wide, on multiple carriers. Anecdotally, in my terminal, it's gotten ridiculous. Before, mechanical employees were simply overworked. Now they are being eliminated leaving us with what can only be described as skeleton crews, who are pressured to half-ass everything just to get trains out of the yard. It's like nothing I have seen before.
> 2008 or so was the beginning of the digital
> communication DPU era. Trains have been getting
> longer since that technology has been proven
> reliable in most cases. Does PSR take advantage
> of this technology? Yes, but again, the trend
> started long before PSR was being implemented.
But under PSR it has exploded. Many carriers now run trains that are so long that comm issues with the DPs and ETDs have become commonplace. Not safe.
> And yet, reportable incidents and employee on duty
> injuries are down from 2012 through 2018 (last
> full year). Statistics are shown below from the
> FRA data base.
Most incidents resulting from running obscene train lengths are not reportable. Break-in-twos, uncoupled air hoses, comm issues resulting in delays, defect detector reports, all not reportable, but very much on the rise. Many recent derailments have been caused by improper train make-up because train building rules were not made to account for the lengths they are now running in some places. This is a recent one that comes to mind.
No official cause has been determined or released that I know of but I know several people who work on this subdivision and they all told me it was a poorly built monster train, a product of the current PSR mandate. So far one of these things hasn't done any major destruction but when one of these monsters finally does come off the rails and there is a massive hazmat incident, everyone will be saying, "I told you so".
> When you have double track for most of the entire
> distance on a major corridor, 10,000 - 12,000 ft
> trains do not significantly affect meet/pass
> ability. Where you don't have that type of
> infrastructure, the railroads either don't run
> many 10,000+ foot trains (BNSF Northern Corridor)
> or they make adjustments to allow longer trains in
> one direction (UP's Canyon Sub). CN expanded
> many of their sidings to 12,000 feet to
> accommodate that length of train, then immediately
> started running 15,000' westbound trains. So the
> EBs hold the siding while the WB holds the main,
> and meet/pass is workable across the route.
When you are out there every day, you see something different. Dispatchers lining trains into sidings where they don't fit. Cities and towns blocked for way too long because a 10K foot train got a hose or set off a detector. Crews dying on hours-of-service all over the place. You are describing the paper side of the railroad. The plans the desk jockeys come up with and try to force everyone to make it work. Even if it doesn't.
> Terminals can be an issue, but if you have 6,000
> foot arrival/departure tracks (which many older
> terminals do), even a 7,000 foot train has to be
> doubled in (or out). So arguments can be made
> that even longer trains (10,000+) don't create
> that many more headaches, while reducing the
> number of trains moving through the terminal.
Uh huh. Clearly you've never had to double a train together.
> As to FRA addressing the "problem" of longer
> trains on communities, all it takes is money to
> build more grade separations. But that is not a
> railroad responsibility, since in most cases, the
> railroad granted crossing access to the street
> traffic rather than the other way around.
Too bad the public has influence on this. Residents of many towns are already pissed at the new train lengths as they make a significant difference in the quality of life in their towns, many of which are growing themselves.
> If you cherry pick a specific year over year, you
> can certainly find uptrends. But if you look at
> 2012 through 2018, CN, CP, CSX, NS and UP (the
> major PSR accolates) all have declining numbers of
> incidents (FRA data base). The numbers are:
> CN 72 to 38 (PSR via EHH since around 2007)
> CP 32 to 7 (PSR since 2013)
> CSX 208 to 193 (PSR since 2017)
> NS 176 to 164 (PSR since 2017 or thereabouts)
> UP 511 to 386 (PSR since 2018 or thereabouts)
> And employee injuries:
> CN 121 to 114
> CP 101 to 42
> CSX 214 to 140
> NS 243 to 237
> UP 550 to 218
> While not all this time frame featured PSR for all
> the railroads, these stats did all occur while
> train length was increasing and efficiency
> practices were being implemented.
Fewer employees = less injuries. Incidents per ton-mile and injuries based on ton-miles per employee are what matter. And remember, there is a threshold that must be met before accidents and injuries have to be reported. Human-factor incidents are up in every terminal I deal with, except the ones that have had the TY&E rosters gutted. But few of these get reported to the Feds.
> But BNSF's is also increasing train length and
> asking employees to be more efficient (super
> pools, remote switchers, etc). These are the
> same criteria that the statement is correlating
> with the negative effects of PSR.
BNSF is dabbling in PSR, taking specific elements of it and testing them out. It's also late to the game doing this thus there are no meaningful statistics available. But those of us out there know when things are right, and when they aren't. And they aren't.
> Only if you cherry pick the last year for specific
> railroads. If the last years' trends continue
> for the next 5 years AND the railways stick with
> the tenants of PSR, then you have data that
> justifies this type of statement. Right now, you
> have a couple of points on a very underpopulated
PSR wasn't executed by any single carrier overnight. Maybe on CSX it happened more rapidly than on other carriers but none of them flipped a switch one day and had PSR. It's effects, especially on front-line employees, mechanical reliability, and infrastructure, weren't immediate either. But as time goes on, overworked employees, deferred maintenance or shoddy maintenance practices, and failing infrastructure will come back to haunt them. But none of this happens overnight.
> I personally am not for or against PSR - to me, it
> is just another evolution of the rail industry.
> Many similar past evolutions were touted as being
> the end of the industry, and yet time has proven
> they have made the industry more efficient and
> safer. A true assessment of the effects of PSR
> won't likely be available for at least another 3
> or 4 years, and by then, who knows how the
> industry will change again? But I understand why
> the statement was made, and why many employees
> agree with parts of it. I do think it would be
> more effective if both sides of the argument were
> presented and it still supported the claims
> against PSR, but then again, most "policy
> statements" only cite the side that supports their
The carriers have clearly and plainly made their side of this topic well known. I'm glad the unions are finally telling the other side of the story. They should. In my opinion, the carriers and the AAR are liars and spin the facts to appeal to hedge fund managers and Federal regulators. But yeah, we'll see how it all works out in the end. Railroading is capital intensive. It requires long-range thinking and planning, and constant maintenance. To me, PSR is a knee-jerk strategy for short-term stock gains. Those schemes never work on railroads, just because of the nature of the business. And lets not forget these are common carriers, which have an obligation to fulfill common-carrier standards, some of which is becoming incompatible with PSR. Many carload customers are already being driven away and are desperately searching for alternatives. At some point this is all going to bite the country in the ass when it starts to affect our GDP and economic growth.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/08/19 21:41 by trainjunkie.
Date: 11/09/19 08:54
Re: Decent read on PSR
If these union accusations are even partially true why hasn't the FRA stepped in with some heavy fines and injunctions?
How big would a fine have to be to get the attention of a Warren Buffett?
Date: 11/09/19 09:19
Re: Decent read on PSR
I respect your opinion but disagree that the isolated examples you cite are proof positive that PSR is the cause. Stuff has always happened on the RR, and until there is empirical data that shows it is happening more frequently BECAUSE of PSR, it's just anecdotal evidence. I saw way too many break in twos in the 1980/1990s with coal or grain trains trying to start on a hill when you had all your power on the head end, when there were no DPU. Those were 6,000 - 6,500 foot trains which are now considered short trains.
Technology is always advancing, now more quickly than in times in the past. If you don't think train lengths would have continued to grow with or without PSR, you are probably not being completely honest in your analysis. Additionally, if you can control jet airliners and autonomous trucks with software, how large of a leap is it to know that rail corporations are studying a similar type of train control? You think if EHH hadn't had the power to implement PSR concepts on CN, CP and then CSX, this would never have happened?
The point I'm making is blaming this solely on PSR (which is what the policy statement did) is not a full assessment of the changes to the industry. Technology, digital communications, AI are all going to continue to change the face of the railroad, just like diesel locomotives (operating and mechanical crew reductions as well as longer trains), computerized inventory lists (clerical reductions and more timely reporting) and mechanized MoW equipment (maintenance worker reductions and more daily production) changed the industry over the last 60 years. As I said in my first post, PSR is just another evolution of the industry - I just don't believe that it has been around long enough in the US (it has been around longer in Canada) on which to blame all industry problems, which is what the policy statement did. But as I also said, I understand your position and why the policy statement was issued.
BTW, I worked at Seattle Int'l Gateway (SIG), South Seattle, Kettle Falls and Yardley (Spokane) as a TM for about 5 years total, so I know what it takes to double trains in and out of short yards. If you don't have long leads on both ends of the yard (and none of those locations did except maybe SoSea to the north), you are going to need the main line to arrive or depart the train whether you have 1000 extra feet or 5000 extra feet. It would be nice if yards were designed in the 1900's to accommodate today's operations, but they weren't, so everybody deals with what they've got. And that happened about 35 years ago for me now, so I suspect it is a problem that will continue to exist for many years into the future.
Date: 11/09/19 10:46
Re: Decent read on PSR
Yeah, I figured you were in management. I don't think you understand the premise of the original TDD article.
Sure, many of the things happening under PSR would have eventually happened without it. But it's happening now at such an aggressive pace that many of these sudden changes are going to do more harm than good, especially in the long term. That is the point of the article, and PSR is at the root of it. At least BNSF has the smarts to dip their toes on the PSR lake before diving in because, lets face it, PSR is incredibly disruptive and, in my opinion (and others), not sustainable in this industry in its current form. Even Keith Creel, one of EHH's minions, has had to back-peddle from some of the mess PSR did to the CP. He freely admitted this saying in a post-EHH era interview, “Gosh, we got a lot wrong.”
Other carriers now on the PSR bandwagon are going to have a hangover from it. Not so much because of what was executed in the name of PSR, but how it was executed. PSR is forcing revolutionary changes all at once, rather than evolutionary changes at a reasonable and manageable pace. That is the point I believe the article is trying to make.
You keep referencing 'empirical data' but as a manager, you above all others should know how much stuff gets swept under the rug when it doesn't support the narrative du jour. As a front-line employee, and a union officer, I see all sorts of incidents that they will cherry pick then make them vanish. Data is easily manipulated to support a desired outcome, especially when one entity controls the collection and interpretation of it. That being said, I also blame the unions for not being better at data collection by deploying some version of C3RS. But I've flogged that horse to death in previous posts such as the ones in this thread from 5 years ago.
All that aside though, you should be more concerned with the loss of manpower that the carriers are proposing. Fewer TY&E employees means fewer managers, fewer crew callers, etc. with the net result of fewer people paying into railroad retirement. Eliminating conductors is going to hurt everyone in more ways than one and, while at some point, this crew-size reduction may be inevitable, the way railroads operate, and the current technology they have at their disposal, they are not in a position to make this transition smoothly or safely despite what they claim and would like people to believe.
Date: 11/09/19 17:28
Re: Decent read on PSR
> A true assessment of the effects of PSR
> won't likely be available for at least another 3
> or 4 years, and by then, who knows how the
> industry will change again?
That's assuming that the railroads haven't chased off all of their customers by then.