2006-07-07

The Current Rail Boom: Too Much of a Good Thing?

The rise in rail traffic over the past few years has been blowing out all the stops. Freight traffic is booming. Western railroads like BNSF and UP can't hire engineers and crew fast enough. As a result, you get situations like that of a UP engineer in Texas who two years ago had been working 37 out of 55 hours and fell asleep at the controls. Compounded by his conductor's state of inebriation, he slept through two signals and collided with a BNSF train and caused a chlorine tank to rupture. In all, 3 people died and 30 were injured by the chlorine gas. The engineer lives to regret his mistakes.

Should he have even been in the cab? It's clear his conductor shouldn't have been. But such things are overlooked when you're scraping the bottom of the barrel for crews to head trains over a booming railroad. You work with what you have and you hope nothing goes wrong. Yet, in Texas, something did go wrong. Someone got caught "hoping."

Hattip: John Barnhill, www.Trainboard.com