Nearly 6,000 smart members – about 15% of all SMART freight train staff and about 60% of BNSF land service employees – are affected by the BNSF`s provisional territorial agreement. The president of the smart transportation division, John Previsich, did not respond to a request for advice. Although a BNSF official stated that Previsich «indicated» that he would «not be against» the General Commission`s preliminary agreement, and Babler stated that Previsich was «complementary» to a Power Point presentation on April 30, Previsich said of his Transportation Division website on July 18 that he continued to commit «two people on each crew.» He did not cite a conductor, unlike an assistant engineer, as a second person. The TPC`s extensive capabilities are designed to make the second crew member in the cabin redundant. The National Transportation Safety Board, which has long advocated for the installation of TPC, is not opposed to the elimination of the flight attendant during the installation of the TPC. Amtrak, commuter trains and many small freight trains had long worked with a lone engineer in the cab, with no evidence that there was no reduction in train safety. It provides that where a driver is no longer in the cab of a TPC-equipped freight train, surveillance must be provided by the engineer`s director and the operation of the train by far-off means – which could one day include aerial drones equipped with cameras, as indicated in a cover letter of the provisional agreement. The interim agreement, which would significantly increase the pay of construction workers and other ground workers, was negotiated between BNSF and General Committee 001 of the Transportation Division of the Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Union (SMART) Union (formerly United Transportation Union). In addition to controllers, ground service personnel also include brakes, aids, switching workers and shipyards. All are subject to the promotion of the conductor. BNSF states that the intention of the agreement is to «reserve significant employment opportunities (many of them new opportunities) for BNSF ground service employees, and BNSF has an absolute obligation and will respect that spirit in the agreement.
Performance bonuses, which are now eligible for average management and locomotive drivers, are included in the agreement for all land service employees. BNSF also intends to offer $100,000 in flat-rate separation packages to certain protected ground service officers as they choose. Such trains equipped with TPC and their engineer would be supervised by a newly appointed principal, who would be from a fixed or mobile location other than the locomotive plant. The agreement reminds – and for the first time in a railway employment contract – that the driver is responsible for the operation of the trains. Improved salaries and benefits and full protection would be made available to all affected ground agents in exchange for a modified crew for gradation in more than two years, effective January 1, 2015. The ratification vote will begin in mid-August and the results will be announced in September. This provisional agreement provides for a relapse – as if it had never existed – when laws, regulations or judicial proceedings «significantly» undermine the agreement. A benign, proactive and far-sighted cooperation between BNSF and a general committee of its main union resulted in a provisional agreement allowing freight trains equipped with positive train control (PTC) to operate as early as next year with a lone engineer in the cabin and no conventional captain between parts of the Midwest and Pacific Northwest.
BNSF calls the agreement «a new transformative approach to railway operations, where the Master Conductor has a wide range of responsibilities and opportunities and can use his talents and capabilities more broadly to improve the safety, quality and efficiency of bnSF operations.» This was promised, even though the data show no proven safety advantage for crews of two