Mac A. Fleming Freddie N. Simpson
Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes
Affiliated with the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and C.L.C
July 3, 2003
DOT Central Docket Management Facility
Room PL-401(Plaza Level)
400 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20590
Re: Docket No. FRA-2003-14986
Dear Sir or Madam:
The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes (BMWE), a rail labor organization representing 50,000 railroad workers who build, maintain, inspect, and repair railroad track and related structures throughout North America, opposes the granting of a Waiver of Compliance to the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern (DM&E) Railroad in the above referenced docket.
DM&E seeks a waiver of compliance from the provisions of the Track Safety Standards, 49 CFR 213.113(a), to allow rails with bolt-hole/rail head crack-outs up to 6" in length within the joint area “where the piece remains tight in the bars” to remain in track without repair or assignment of a person designated under §213.7 to visually supervise each operation over said defective rail. The territory subject to this waiver petition consists of approximately 250 miles of DM&E line-of-road trackage located on the Huron, Tracy, and Waseca Sub-divisions.
The Track Safety Standards (49 CFR, Part 213) currently provide track owners with ample flexibility, within reasonable time-tested limits of safety, to institute remedial action for rail defects which allow continued train movements within the guidelines specified by the Remedial Action Table of §213.113. Under the Remedial Action Table, bolt hole cracks of various dimensions are allowed to remain in track under reduced speeds and periodic visual inspection. However, for obvious safety reasons, break-outs in the rail head and other catastrophic rail head failures require immediate replacement of the rail or the visual supervision of each movement over the break-out by an individual designated under §213.7.
First, a break-out in the rail head poses an elevated derailment risk because the rail head directly interacts with the tread and flange of each rail wheel traversing it. Second, absent the required visual supervision of each movement over the break-out, there will be no chance to stop the movement, or any subsequent movements, traversing the defect should the rail end piece become dislodged or a wheel hit the ground. Third, a rail head break-out that appears to be held tightly in place by joint bars at one moment, can become loose or totally dislodged subsequent to inspection, particularly during temperature swings normally occurring during any 24 hour period. Fourth, it makes little safety sense to allow rail head break-out defects to remain in track for up to 30 days, when on the 31st day the track owner (DM&E) would be required to replace the rail or visually supervise each movement under the terms of their own waiver petition. And finally, replacing such defective rails after up to 30 days in track does nothing to mitigate the risks associated with traversing such rail head break-outs unsupervised, and does nothing to address the DM&E’s professed problem of “ever dwindling supply of repair rail.”
BMWE believes that granting a waiver to allow rail head break-outs up to 6" to remain in hundreds of miles of track over 3 sub-divisions is inherently unsafe, and will have a negligible affect on the supply of repair rail or other resource of DM&E. Also, both logic and physics dictate that joint bars alone are insufficient for holding a rail head break-out safely in place.
Therefore, for the reasons stated above, and in the interest of railroad safety, DM&E’s request for a waiver of compliance in the above-referenced docket should be denied in its entirety.
Fred N. Simpson (signed)