June 3, 2002

CHICAGO (June 3)–Have you been assigned to operate a train over territory where you never made a qualification trip?

Have you been assigned to work where you qualified months or years ago but have not been re-familiarized recently?

Has your carrier ever turned down your request for a pilot to accompany you over unfamiliar territory?

You’re not alone. Sending out unqualified or underqualified crews seems to be happening increasingly as railroads stretch their human resources to the snapping point in order to handle more business without hiring and training more employees.

“I continue to hear complaints on various properties regarding our memmbers being refused a pilot or being forced to work in unfamiliar territory with few or no qualifying trips,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo.

Szabo says he’d like the union to bring such incidents to the attention of railroad management as well as to federal and state authorities. But he says cannot do so unless the incidents are documented.

“Unfortunately, most of these complaints filter in to me second-hand, long after the fact and without any documentation,” Szabo said. “To make sure the complaints get registered with the appropriate railroad officials, we urge that anyone asked to work in unfamiliar territory–without a pilot take the following steps:”

First, tell the crew caller that you do not feel qualified over the territory to which you have been assigned and that you are requesting a pilot to accompany your trip. If your request for a pilot is denied, make sure you get the caller’s name and the time when you were denied a pilot. Also, ask the caller to make a written notation of your request, his answer and the time of your conversation.

Second, contact a supervisor and inform him or her that you have been called to work an unfamiliar territory and have been denied the services of a pilot. If the supervisor also refuses to furnish a pilot, make sure you record the supervisor’s name and the time at which your request was rejected. Request that the supervisor make a written notation of your request, his answer, and the time of the conversation. Do not be insubordinate, and do not refuse the assignment.

If ordered to report for duty without a pilot, do so. But once on duty, immediately contact the dispatcher and advise him that you do not feel qualified to operate in the assigned territory and that you requested, and were refused, a pilot. Ask the dispatcher to record what you told him. Then note in your own records the dispatcher’s name and the time of your call.

At the conclusion of the assignment, write up all pertinent information, including date, location, times, caller’s name, supervisor’s name and dispatcher’s name. Indicate how many qualifying trips you made over the territory and when. Indicate when you last made a pay trip over this territory.

Forward all of the above information to Joseph C. Szabo, Illinois Legislative Director, United Transportation Union, 8 S. Michigan–Suite 2006, Chicago, IL 60603. Or save time by entering the information on the Illinois Legislative Board’s Web page at wwww.illini.utu.org. Click on the link labeled “Safety Complaints.”