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Federal Agencies, Rail Unions Team Up On Safety Research

Federal Agencies, Rail Unions Team Up On Safety Research

Researchers at federal agencies are working with the railroad unions to understand how railroaders best receive information on safety practices.

Since May (and running through July), the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) Office of Research, Development and Technology (RD&T) and the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center have been conducting a needs assessment survey to learn about what tools and technology railroaders use to gather, share and communicate information on occupational safety. 

The survey's goal is "to understand how best to communicate safety-related information to railroaders across the railroad industry, and to update an existing FRA ICT [information and communications technology] resource, the Railroaders' Guide to Healthy Sleep website (," FRA said. 

The agencies, working with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLET) and the SMART-Transportation Division, are sending the survey to a randomly selected sample of approximately 2,000 active train, yard and engine railroad employees. The survey's results will be confidential.

"We support this effort because we believe it will help us to better serve our members. We are collaborating with the Volpe team to reach our members for this survey," explained Dennis R. Pierce, BLET national president, and Jeremy R. Ferguson, SMART-Transportation Division president.

The agencies are still determining how best to report its findings to internal and external stakeholders, but if the agencies release their results publicly, they would be published by the end of 2020. 

The methods that the federal agencies are using to survey union members build upon previous research between all parties to understand railroaders' work schedules and sleep patterns. 

"Volpe and FRA RD&T have a long history of collaborating with rail labor organizations to conduct research. Volpe, for example, includes union representatives on its Stakeholder Review Panels, which help inform FRA's research efforts," FRA said.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.

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