One-Man Crew

General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

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One-Man Crew

Postby mtuandrew » Sat Apr 23, 2016 5:34 pm

In the Denver RTD thread, the discussion of one-man crews came up. Let's talk - is it safe? Is it safe enough?

Context posts:

BlendedBreak wrote:RTD is not safe.
They do not employ conductors.
They choose to be cheap, and therefore will run into problems they could never imagine.
Without a Conductor who understands how air brakes work, how do you complete a brake test?


deathtopumpkins wrote:Hopefully the engineer understands the air brakes, since he'll be the one using them!

Are you saying that RTD is employing one-man crews on the A line? Because I thought federal regulations required two-man crews, so I'm curious how they're skirting that requirement, considering that the A line is definitely connected to the national rail system, and shares tracks with Amtrak at Union Station.


BlendedBreak wrote:So if the engineer is supposed to apply the brakes-you want him to get off the equipment,walk around it to make sure the brakes appear to be applied, and check for pressure irregularity at the same time?
When the equipment starts its inevitable roll and the doors close (Inertia sensors), who is going to stop the runaway train?
Whenever the brakes are released someone needs to be in the seat.

RTD is skirting regulations.

It is a one man crew for sure.

RTD plans to run this operation like a light rail system. My guess is in the very near future once the government becomes wise to the situation-RTD will have to shut down for a number of days as jobs are created to comply with regulation. Its going to be messy.

deathtopumpkins wrote:I'm sure RTD is not skirting regulations. That would be too risky. I can't imagine a major transit agency blatantly ignoring something like that. And I'm sure if that were the case, the FRA would be aware already and would not have allowed them to commence operations.

BlendedBreak wrote:Of course you are.

Every railroad that has had preventable accidents in the past few years was skirting regulation.

RTD and DTP/DTO is no different.

bdawe wrote:Surely you can forgive us for being skeptical of claims that RTD is flagrantly violating Federal rules on their first days of operation

But, if they have, in fact, figured out how to join the 20th Century with respect to regional rail, I applaud them.
electricron wrote:I don't understand why the person outside walking around the train checking the brakes has to be assigned to the train? Couldn't that qualified person be assigned to the two terminus stations instead, helping the engineer in the new active cab check the brakes for every train? Since the engineer has to walk the train anyways switching cabs, couldn't they rotate engineers, with the new engineer climbing into the new cab while the old engineer walks the train, or vice versa, then takes a break and then becomes the new engineer on the next train?
For example, for ten trains in service, there's twelve qualified personnel for performing brake checks (10 on the trains and 2 at the end stations) vs twenty (2 on 10 trains), therefore eight less personnel required to perform these tests.

I'll admit I am not aware exactly the operating procedure, but even a lay person like me can see ways to have qualified personnel make the necessary break checks without having two people assigned to ride the train all the way over the route.
mtuandrew wrote:So far, there's no FRA rule prohibiting one-man passenger rail operation that I can find on their website. I'm not saying it's a good thing, just that it doesn't exist.

AAR seems to like "no ruling" as the status quo (which, it's an industry mouthpiece, so that makes sense) as long as there's PTC in place.
BlendedBreak wrote:...

http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=7c0c7527fb6a1e0b73b8ca67745448df&mc=true&node=pt49.4.232&rgn=div5

...

For railroads that connect to the General Railroad System there are certain criteria that must be met.

...

No harm - no foul if they claim ignorance.

For all.Conductor Certification Requirements.
http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=8ce69f7bb9a74836043f00afda76fd08&rgn=div5&view=text&node=49:4.1.1.1.36&idno=49#se49.4.242_13

When this company has their first at-grade collision/fatality.
The Engineer will have to:
Report the event to a dispatcher.
If unable to reach the dispatcher provide flag protection for his train in both directions.
(when getting off the train he must provide safety protection to himself and cut HEP=Passengers in the dark-literally.)
(Also general liability for leaving operating cab after incident.)
Take a count of passengers onboard.
Take note of any passengers requiring assistance.
Go out and check the vehicle for fatality or injury.
Survey damage to railroad infrastructure.
Liaise with emergency services.

It is going to be a nightmare. But hey, i might be wrong.

bdawe wrote:I can sort-of understand the technicalities of railroad brakes and brake check rules, but what about the above scenario is so different from what light rail and subway motormen nearly everywhere and regional rail drivers all across the world beyond the US and Canada manage to make work?
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Re: One-Man Crew

Postby BlendedBreak » Sun Apr 24, 2016 10:47 am

Lets clarify, this was not intended to be a discussion regarding the number of people inside the operating cab.

This issue was raised from the predictable oversight of railroads whose management want the cheapest possible labor.
Whenever a passenger or freight train is moved it should have at a minimum One FRA approved Engineer, and One FRA approved Conductor.

The FRA is not as concerned about dafety as it is with keeping the few Class 1's happy.
This is the same agency that allows confuctors to remotely control 150,000+ pound engines.
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Re: One-Man Crew

Postby Ryand-Smith » Fri Apr 29, 2016 5:39 am

BlendedBreak wrote:Lets clarify, this was not intended to be a discussion regarding the number of people inside the operating cab.

This issue was raised from the predictable oversight of railroads whose management want the cheapest possible labor.
Whenever a passenger or freight train is moved it should have at a minimum One FRA approved Engineer, and One FRA approved Conductor.

The FRA is not as concerned about dafety as it is with keeping the few Class 1's happy.
This is the same agency that allows confuctors to remotely control 150,000+ pound engines.



With all due respect, in all of the non WMTA accidents in the US (and now Germany), human error has been The factor in these issues. In the Metro North accident, operators who were trained over speed around a curve. In the Amtrak Pa accident.. same thing occurred. In California, an operator was txting while driving a train. For the big passenger claims of safe trained operators, you can say the operators have not proven themselves safe. I am shocked they are not using automatic train operation myself, it would remove the unsafe human factor once and for all.
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Re: One-Man Crew

Postby DutchRailnut » Fri Apr 29, 2016 7:17 am

Automatic train operations would not help much as there is no fail safe system, the human operator is cheap insurance for railroads to have something to blame.
If automation fails, who would you blame and how would you regain trust of public ??
If a Human fails the public will realize he is one in many and still take the train.
Automation does not detect abnormalities like trespassers or objects placed on rail.
Automation does not have troubleshooting skills to get your train moving again, lots of newer operators don't know either but that is lack of training.
If Conductors are in charge, why are they promoted to be Engineer???

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Re: One-Man Crew

Postby mtuandrew » Fri Apr 29, 2016 10:12 am

Dutch: I agree, but wouldn't your statements also apply to a one-man crew since there'd always be a warm body in the engineer's seat?

(I personally agree that a two-man crew should be the minimum for freight and passenger ops, but I'm curious to hear a passenger railroader's thoughts.)
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Re: One-Man Crew

Postby DutchRailnut » Fri Apr 29, 2016 12:33 pm

I agree with two man crew, but even Amtrak and I believe LIRR move some engine consist with just one person.
If Conductors are in charge, why are they promoted to be Engineer???

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Re: One-Man Crew

Postby ExCon90 » Fri Apr 29, 2016 12:41 pm

For context, the RiverLINE in New Jersey operates with one-man crews and has done so since its inception, on shared (but temporally separated) track subject to FRA regulations. The line appears to be similar to the Denver operation except that it is primarily single track with passing tracks, and a lot more grade crossings. It also has intermittent inductive Automatic Train Stop; I'm not sure what Denver has. So far there have been no emergencies that I know of that would have required a second crew member--so we don't really know yet how that would work out, but they are certainly running a one-man operation with full knowledge of the FRA.
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Re: One-Man Crew

Postby Ryand-Smith » Fri Apr 29, 2016 12:50 pm

DutchRailnut wrote:Automatic train operations would not help much as there is no fail safe system, the human operator is cheap insurance for railroads to have something to blame.
If automation fails, who would you blame and how would you regain trust of public ??
If a Human fails the public will realize he is one in many and still take the train.
Automation does not detect abnormalities like trespassers or objects placed on rail.
Automation does not have troubleshooting skills to get your train moving again, lots of newer operators don't know either but that is lack of training.



Don't most newer digital trains require hardware/factory reboots va the older analog series of trains where you can start and troubleshoot (I have qualified operating older EMD prime movers and newer ones.. The new troubleshooting is rather painful with the static excited and digital controls , while my old 645s were easy enough.

(We used them as EDGs rather than train motors, but our prime movers were the same as in railroad applications besides our sumps).

Also, the automation we have for our newer diesels does do self checks and self troubleshooting, the only thing it can't do is some Upgrades which require the admin code. It's just, automation doesn't do the terrible mistakes that people tend to, can't strike, and with a backup operator can be more efficient.
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Re: One-Man Crew

Postby DutchRailnut » Fri Apr 29, 2016 2:32 pm

I think your getting way off topic , my comment was about automatic operation of trains , not on how to trouble shoot locomotives despite making a mention of it.
If Conductors are in charge, why are they promoted to be Engineer???

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Re: One-Man Crew

Postby Ryand-Smith » Fri Apr 29, 2016 6:16 pm

My point is that human operators have proven themselves unsafe operators, and in much more safety critical industries like nuclear power, electrical operations and navigation, single operators can be and are safe. As your own post said, conductor and operator action has not prevented unsafe operation, so single operation of the train is an ideal cost savings item.
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Re: One-Man Crew

Postby DutchRailnut » Fri Apr 29, 2016 6:55 pm

yes a human interface will always have element of failure, so does automation. percentage wise how much human failure for how many thousands of hours.
your favoring automation yet it is made by humans and probably fail at higher rates.
If Conductors are in charge, why are they promoted to be Engineer???

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Re: One-Man Crew

Postby Ken W2KB » Thu May 05, 2016 9:24 pm

Ryand-Smith wrote:My point is that human operators have proven themselves unsafe operators, and in much more safety critical industries like nuclear power, electrical operations and navigation, single operators can be and are safe. As your own post said, conductor and operator action has not prevented unsafe operation, so single operation of the train is an ideal cost savings item.


The Google fully automated automobiles being operated out west have had an excellent safety record. Those cars must be steered and detect jaywalkers, other vehicles, etc. Unlike trains, autos don't have guide-ways and don't have signal code to indicate need to slow and/or defects in the road. I rode the extensive fully automated Docklands Railway in London a couple years ago and on several occasions sat in the front seat behind a locked panel that was there to allow manual operation should some condition require it. The sole employee on board the train merely checked farecards/tickets. I spoke to the employee and he indicated that in the event of an emergency he would summon assistance and provide aid as may be appropriate.
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Re: One-Man Crew

Postby kaitoku » Fri May 06, 2016 9:40 pm

When talking about one-man operation of trains, in addition to the fail-safe systems, you have to look at the operational profile of the service- things like distance between stations, the area around the right of way (elevated, ground level,urban, rural, etc.) length of trains (and avg. passenger loads), response times for emergency services as well as railroad support personnel and such, and then judge whether the driver can reasonably handle all contingencies with the safety of passengers as the first concern in a worst-case scenario.
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Re: One-Man Crew

Postby mtuandrew » Sat May 07, 2016 5:48 pm

kaitoku: And all that's in addition to the traffic mix (2-car local scoots + 8-car Acelas + 24-car stone trains + rail grinders + 80-car unit coal trains) with their respective speeds, braking abilities, and familiarity with the territory. Makes it really difficult to justify a safe single-operator train without even a conductor to hit the brakes from another car. On a transit system where all of the equipment is of one type and the line as automatic train control, maybe it's safe enough.
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