Thursday, October 24, 2019

RTD Failing To Protect Drivers and Riders Amid Growth

Sometimes growth and change isn't pretty, but with RTD, it can be downright ugly. Engineers of Denver's Light Rail have finally opened up to say they're fed up with long, grueling shifts, six-day work weeks, and careless disregard by management. Most people can relate to having worked a long shift once in a while, but the current manpower shortage at RTD goes beyond the occasional extra overtime. Engineers of trains report making mistakes directly attributable to their being on the clock for more than 12 hours, a condition that is illegal for engineers of freight railroads. Innumerable studies have been done showing the detrimental effects of overwork, long shifts and extended work weeks.

Fear of retribution has kept engineers from openly speaking out about the problems, but concerns about safety for the engineers and their riders have prompted them to come to the media to seek change. "[We are] not safe. We're all worked to death," one engineer said anonymously.

Jeffrey Beall
RTD engineers in the course of their duty are expected to drive their light rail trains through crowded city streets, over grade crossings and next to highways and roads throughout the Denver metropolitan area, in situations requiring attention, caution, and awareness, attributes that are dulled and even nullified by fatigue and exhaustion. Just as a tired driver of a truck or other vehicle is a danger to themselves and the others around them, engineers who are tired can make operational mistakes costing time, money, and even human lives. For example, an engineer who is inattentive--even momentarily--could miss a signal and plow their massive light rail train through a crowded intersection, causing destruction and manslaughter. Another example, an engineer could take his train through a sharp turn (like the one near Colfax and Auraria) meant for a train going 10 miles per hour at a speed of 50 miles per hour or more, causing a tragedy not unlike the 2015 Philadelphia Train Derailment that took the lives of 7 people.

Employee turnover and a general feeling of disrespect and resentment are not helping matters. Though a spokesperson expressed managements' awareness of the issue, they did not present specifics on efforts to remedy the situation. All of this occurs as RTD ridership plummets.

Opinion

Clearly, RTD is not taking the situation as seriously as its engineers. If they were, they would take effective steps to find and employ the engineers necessary to meet the needs of Denver's riders. Offering competitive compensation packages, incentives and training for applicants would go a long way toward resolving this problem, along with improving the work environment for their current engineers. Until they do, RTD and Denver are courting tragedy of the worst kind. ⚒

No comments:

Post a Comment

Colorado Railroads is a site dedicated to preserving and presenting rail transportation in the Centennial State. Join the growing fascination with railroading and the lives and industries connected by a ribbon of steel across, over and through the Continental Divide!