The following statement from Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) First Vice President Mark Wallace references a breakthrough agreement signed in Washington today between Norfolk Southern, the BLET and another union for joint participation in a Federal Railroad Administration Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS) pilot program. C3RS is designed to enhance railroad safety by enabling covered BLET members employed at the railroad to report safety issues without fear of retaliation or punishment.

BLET members who work in the cabs of Norfolk Southern’s locomotives welcome this agreement. Our union has had years of experience with close call reporting programs at Amtrak and other passenger railroads, along with a handful of smaller freight carriers, but only 23 out of the nation’s 800 railroads have adopted C3RS.

For far too long the large railroads and their trade association, The Association of American Railroads, have paid lip service to safety. The AAR prefers to spend millions of dollars on television commercials bragging about safety while backtracking on safety agreements. Rather than adopt programs like C3RS, that enables an organization to continually improve and take corrective actions, the Class I railroads engaged and continue to engage in finger pointing.

This close call reporting system, which is like safety programs successfully used in commercial aviation, will help put an end to the blame game and place Norfolk Southern’s trains on safer journeys. We fervently hope that it will be a model for other Class I freight carriers.

Norfolk Southern and its CEO, Alan Shaw, should be commended for showing leadership on this issue. Our union’s National President, Eddie Hall, and our General Chairmen who represent BLET members at NS, Scott Bunten, Dewayne Dehart, and Jerry Sturdivant, have joined me in telling Norfolk Southern’s managers that if they’re serious about improving this railroad they must both prioritize safety and value railroad employees. This agreement on C3RS does both.