U-P To Test Putting Conductors In Trucks Instead Of On Freight Trains


    The Union Pacific railroad has confirmed it plans to use a pilot program in Nebraska, Wyoming, and Colorado this summer taking the conductor out of the cab of a train and putting them in a truck to respond to problems on trains.

     The railroad shelved the idea earlier this year in the face of opposition from the conductors’ union, but U-P spokesman Joson Pinder broke the news of the test Monday while testifying against a proposed Kansas rule requiring 2-person crews.

       The union later dropped its opposition to the test after Union Pacific agreed to maintain current crew sizes and drop negotiations on reducing them. Smaller crews can be reintroduced for the next contract when negotiations start in 2 years.  

     The U-P has been one of the leading advocates of going to just an engineer in the locomotive, saying a variety of new safety technologies have eliminated the need for conductors. 

     Trains will continue using 2-person crews during the test program, which will run between Denver and Cheyenne and in western Nebraska from North Platte to Morrill in August and September. .

     The U-P’s idea is to test out how quickly a conductor in a truck can respond to any problem compared to how quickly a conductor on the train will be able to walk back along the train to find an issue. 

     The U-P still has to work out exactly how large a territory a ground-based conductor might cover during the pilot program.

      Critics raise practical questions about whether a conductor driving a truck would be able to reach a train in remote locations where no roads are near the tracks, or if they might be delayed in traffic.

      The Nebraska portion of the test seems to favor the railroad’s proposal since the route is relatively flat and runs along Hwy 30, Interstate 80, or both.