Union Warns of Excessive Radio Traffic

A railroad union has told the Federal Railroad Administration that “needless radio broadcasts” is distracting locomotive engineers and creating a safety hazard.

SMARTThe SMART Transportation Division cited such distractions as a factor in an Amtrak derailment near Philadelphia in May 2015 that left eight dead and more than 200 injured.

SMART said some of its members have reported that “they have lost situational awareness because of the constant blaring of the locomotive radio.”

The letter, which was signed by SMART Legislative Director John Risch, said he has experienced the same thing personally.

The letter said that excessive radio chatter impairs a train crew’s ability to communicate with maintenance-of-way workers, dispatchers and other train crews.

The National Transportation Safety Board in its findings of probable cause of the 2015 Amtrak derailment cited the engineer’s loss of “situational awareness” after he became distracted by radio communications of an emergency involving another train.

“I’m bringing this to your attention now because, clearly, there is a problem out there and the NTSB has it on its radar,” Risch wrote. “I believe there should be some modest changes to railroad operating rules that would greatly reduce radio congestion, and we have asked railroads many times to do so, but unfortunately we have made no progress.”

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