Five labor unions this week urged the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to prioritize safety as it weighs the benefits and costs of automation technology in the rail industry.
The message came in response to the FRA's call for public comments on the future of rail automation.
In a May 7 letter, union leaders said that the FRA's questions about automation reflect a "very positive view of something that has not been proven to be effective in terms of safety or efficiency."
They called on the FRA to examine the "essential job functions performed by humans that cannot be replaced by automation," as well as the "ever-present threat of hostile actors looking to inflict mayhem on our nation's railroads."
The letter was sent by the American Train Dispatchers Association, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen Division TCU/IAM and SMART Transportation Division (TD).
SMART TD President John Previsich penned separate comments outlining his union's position.
"Safety must be first and foremost when discussing the future of automation of our nation’s railroads," Previsich wrote. "It would be unethical and would violate the mandate of Congress to sacrifice safety for potential profits."
The Association of American Railroads and Norfolk Southern Railway also have responded to the FRA's request for comments on automation.