The Association of American Railroads (AAR), on behalf of itself and its member railroads, recently petitioned the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for a waiver of compliance from Federal railroad safety regulations which require brake tests to be performed on a train when it has been off-air for four hours. AAR specifically requests that the four-hour off-air restriction be replaced by a 24-hour off-air restriction. AAR maintains that the requested relief will not affect safety.
The Brotherhood Railway Carman (BRC) has joined with four other rail unions to oppose AAR’s petition for waiver because the requested relief could endanger the safety of both railroad workers and the general public. Among other things, the unions have specifically complained to FRA that in certain circumstances the length of time that equipment is removed from a source of compressed air can impact the integrity and operation of the brake system on a vehicle or train.
In particular, the unions noted that extended off-air time is a concern where the potential for vandalism is high due to the location where equipment is left standing. In addition, cold weather situations can cause freeze-ups in train brake systems. AAR itself admits in its petition that many, but not all locomotives, have operable air driers or other systems to remove moisture and contaminants from the air supply system. Furthermore, the equipment is interchanged and does not stay on the Class I railroads as well. “With all the recent accidents in the railroad industry, now is not the time to further compromise safety by increasing the off-air time to 24 hours,” said BRC General President Richard Johnson. “Simply put, it just takes one piece of equipment with part of the braking operations damaged to compromise the entire trainline.”