Union cites perils of unmanned locomotives

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (PAI) — Another “remote-controlled” train accident could have been a terrible catastrophe, but wasn’t, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen newspaper reported. BLE, which has campaigned against railroads’ use of engineer-less locomotives, reported an unmanned locomotive smashed into a train carrying hazardous materials on the Union Pacific main line in Pine Bluff, Ark., on July 9. The 100-car remote-controlled freight came into the main line because Union Pacific managers, to improve productivity, overrode an “automatic train stop system” that could have prevented the crash, BLE said. And since the locomotive had nobody in it — two inexperienced workers, hired this year, guided it from afar — it hit the 11-car hazmat (hazardous materials) train. BLE President Don M. Hahs called the situation “absolutely disgraceful,” and noted the Pine Bluff City Council went on record against remote-controlled locomotives in early 2003.