The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) today thanks House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chair Donald Payne Jr (D-NJ) for calling on the GAO to study the impacts of Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) on workers, safety, and shippers.
Freight rail carriers once sought to accommodate shippers’ unique requirements and schedules. PSR dictates that rail cars operate on a set and often arbitrary schedule, arriving and departing at specific times regardless of the needs of its customers. PSR proponents claim that this improves train velocity—how quickly they can move trains from one location to another. However, the ultimate goal of PSR is to cut every possible corner and to slash every penny out of a capital-intensive industry that needs a long-term perspective to survive.
“The IAM thanks Representatives Defazio and Payne for addressing this critical safety and job killing issue,” said General Vice President Sito Pantoja. “The Federal Railroad Authority needs to take the safety issues caused by PSR seriously to protect workers and the public.”
“The reality of PSR is to make shareholders more money by making sure cost cuts and profits remain more important than safety and service,” said IAM District 19 President Mike Perry. “As a result, freight rail workers across all crafts and classes have been systematically laid off as employment at Class I railroads has been slashed by approximately 25% in just a few years.”
When TCU and IAM conducted a survey of members on the impacts of PSR, the answers painted a deeply disturbing picture of day-to-day operations. One responding machinist reported being sent, by himself, to work with dangerous and heavy equipment that once required two workers, and expressing fear that no one would know to call for help if he was injured. A carman wrote that at his yard, management now demands brake inspections be performed at the extraordinary and unsafe pace of just 60 seconds per car. Employees of both crafts say critical safety rules designed to protect employees from being hit by equipment are being ignored in the name of speed. Numerous employees stated that re-shift safety briefings—a common industry practice—are being eliminated in order to better utilize man-hours. And commonly, carmen are being forced to ignore FRA defects. One consistent theme emerged throughout the responses: railroads value getting trains moving and moving quickly above all else, including safety.