News & Reviews News Wire FRA warns railroads about their crew training programs

FRA warns railroads about their crew training programs

By Bill Stephens | January 17, 2023

Agency will take enforcement action if deficiencies aren’t corrected

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WASHINGTON — The head of the Federal Railroad Administration has warned Class I railroads that it will take enforcement action if they don’t make recommended improvements to their engineer and conductor training and certification programs.

Administrator Amit Bose, in a Jan. 5 letter to the chief executives of the Class I systems, said the FRA has taken a collaborative approach in its review of crew training and certification programs over the past 18 months.

Man in suit at microphone
FRA Deputy Administrator Amit Bose addresses the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association conference. David Lassen

“Some programs have been reviewed by FRA several times, and in some cases, the revisions to a program barely made incremental progress toward correcting the deficiencies that FRA took great care detailing in successive letters to the railroad,” Bose wrote.

“To encourage full compliance,” he adds, “please be advised that FRA is committed to pursuing enforcement action if a railroad’s resubmitted certification program continues to fail to address the deficiencies identified by FRA.”

Safety starts with properly trained crews and railroads meeting minimum training and qualification standards, he wrote.

The Class I railroads, particularly the big four U.S. systems, have been hiring conductors in greater numbers and more rapidly than ever as they work to solve widespread crew shortages. They have said they have not cut corners by shortening training programs.

Bose’s letter misspelled the first name of Canadian National CEO Tracy Robinson and the last name of CSX Transportation CEO Joe Hinrichs.

9 thoughts on “FRA warns railroads about their crew training programs

  1. When I hired out in 1964, you took a physical, were given a lantern, and put-on the list to take the next available job. In engine service you simply marked up on the list and went to work. In many cases in the yard and even a road job the engineer said simply sit in my seat and run this thing, Period. you learned from old heads and we all survived, thrived, and were promoted. No class room can prepare one as much as on the job experience. The one difference was to get hired they chose those who had prior knowledge of railroading.

  2. Speculation management thoughts. The heck with you FRA and STB. We are a monopoly and there is nothing you can do about it.
    You cannot shut us down and order us to do more training. We are not like an airline that the FAA can shut down and other airlines can fill the gap.

    So fine us. It is cheaper to be fined than do the proper more expemsive regulatory requirements. As well our lawyers can tie you up for years.

    1. One key difference that came with 49CFR243 was the establishment of a “designated instructor” position with the responsible railroad has his or her neck in the noose with the Feds. With individuals being held accountable outside of the railroad there should be a lot of people sweating this.

  3. Holy Crap the FRA would come unglued knowing the training we went through prior to being assigned jobs during a big meltdown in Texas years ago. Took a quick written test and had to tinkle in a bottle. We were all company officers from many different crafts and for the most part had railroad knowledge. I don’t remember any guys in my group being hurt and we got the jobs done.

  4. The FRA made numerous recommendations to the railroads over the years concerning training across the board for all disciplines. Those overtures went unheeded. Ergo, the Feds promulgated 49CFR243 three years ago requiring training for new hires within 180 days and requalification not to exceed three years. The railroads could have owned their destiny but fell asleep at the switch. They have no one to blame but themselves.

  5. When I hired with Chessie in 77 it was three trips and you’re head man! Granted, I had watched trains since I was six years old an read TRAINS Magazine at least that long…so I did have a heads up on what was happening. BUT back then you had a crew that kept an eye on you, you had a fireman getting trained by an engineer…oopps, engineer trainee…and when there was a lot of work on line of road the rear man or conductor came up front to help.
    Todays its weeks in a school taught by guys that probably spent a couple of years on the ground. Best of luck kids…oh and you are getting furloughed cause they don’t want a third man on the crew to keep you fresh (which got them to the exact spot they are now in!)
    Retired and havn’t seen a train in months…
    Dano in Rockford

  6. You do things our way even if we can’t get things right (can’t get names right. probably a spell check issue)

  7. Bill’s articles are well proofed, but other articles on the News Wire are not stellar models of spelling, punctuation, grammar, or general proofreading. Trains probably should hold back on the stone throwing or up its game.

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