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Precision Scheduled Railroading Problems Can Be Deadly

Oct 31, 2023 | Railroad Train Injuries, Railroad Worker Train Injuries, Train Accidents

Home » Precision Scheduled Railroading Problems Can Be Deadly

Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) is a management philosophy and operational approach that aims to improve the efficiency and profitability of a railroad system. It was initially developed by the late Hunter Harrison, a seasoned railroad executive, and has been implemented in various North American and global railroads. As attorneys for injured railroad employees, we have our concerns about how PSR might make tradeoffs that could potentially take a toll on worker safety. PSR focuses on optimizing various aspects of rail operations to enhance service reliability, reduce costs, and maximize resource utilization. The key principles of PSR include:

  1. Fixed Schedules: PSR emphasizes the implementation of fixed schedules, where trains run on specific timetables, allowing for better planning and optimization of resources.
  2. Operating Ratio Improvement: One of the primary goals of PSR is to reduce the operating ratio, which is the ratio of operating expenses to revenue. Lowering this ratio can lead to increased profitability.
  3. Asset Utilization: PSR seeks to maximize the utilization of assets, such as locomotives and railcars, by ensuring that they are in use as much as possible and reducing idle time.
  4. Simplified Networks: Streamlining and simplifying rail networks can reduce operational complexity and improve efficiency.
  5. Labor Efficiency: Labor costs can be optimized by managing the workforce more effectively and reducing overtime expenses.

Potential Shortcomings of PSR

While PSR has been credited with bringing improvements to the rail industry, there are potential problems and criticisms associated with its implementation:

  1. Workforce Concerns: PSR often involves reducing the size of the workforce, which can lead to job cuts and concerns among employees. Labor unions may resist these changes.
  2. Reduced Capacity: Some critics argue that PSR’s focus on cost reduction can lead to reduced capacity and service disruptions, especially during peak periods.
  3. Service Quality: The pursuit of cost savings can sometimes come at the expense of service quality, leading to slower transit times and less reliable deliveries.
  4. Shippers’ Concerns: Shippers may experience challenges when railroads prioritize cost savings, as it can affect the dependability of rail transportation for their products.
  5. Infrastructure Investment: PSR may lead to reduced investment in infrastructure maintenance and expansion, potentially affecting the long-term health of the rail network.
  6. Short-Term Focus: PSR can lead to a focus on short-term financial results at the expense of long-term sustainability and growth.
  7. Safety Concerns for Railroad Workers: Critics argue that a relentless focus on cost-cutting could impact safety standards and maintenance practices.

It’s important to note that the impact of PSR can vary depending on the specific railroad, its management, and the broader industry context. Some railroads have successfully implemented PSR to improve their financial performance and service quality, while others have faced challenges and criticisms. The extent to which these problems manifest depends on how PSR is implemented and the ability of railroad companies to balance cost-cutting with the need to maintain service and safety standards.

Our Safety Concerns Related to PSR

The cost-cutting measures associated with Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) can potentially impact safety standards and maintenance practices in several ways:

  1. Reduced Maintenance Budgets: In an effort to cut costs, some railroads implementing PSR may reduce their maintenance budgets. This can lead to deferred maintenance, which can result in the deterioration of tracks, bridges, signals, and other critical infrastructure. Over time, this deterioration can pose safety risks.
  2. Reduced Preventative Maintenance: Preventative maintenance is essential for ensuring the safety and reliability of railroads. Cost-cutting measures might lead to a reduction in preventative maintenance activities, making it more likely that issues go unaddressed until they become critical, increasing the risk of accidents.
  3. Deferred Infrastructure Repairs: In PSR, there may be a tendency to defer repairs and infrastructure upgrades to save money. This can lead to the deterioration of infrastructure and, in extreme cases, could result in accidents or service disruptions.
  4. Reduced Workforce: Workforce reductions can impact the availability of skilled maintenance and inspection personnel, potentially resulting in inadequate oversight and maintenance of tracks, rolling stock, and other equipment. A smaller workforce may also be stretched thin, affecting their ability to address safety-related concerns promptly.
  5. Pressure on Employees: PSR can sometimes create a culture of cost-cutting and financial performance that may pressure employees to prioritize operational efficiency over safety concerns. This can lead to underreporting of safety incidents or neglect of safety protocols.
  6. Reduced Inspection Frequencies: Cost-cutting measures can lead to reductions in inspection frequencies, which can result in missed safety hazards and maintenance needs.
  7. Increased Reliance on Technology: While technology can improve safety and efficiency, relying solely on technology solutions for safety and maintenance can have drawbacks. Over-reliance on technology may lead to reduced human oversight and the potential for errors or issues not being detected in a timely manner.
  8. Impact on Training: Reduced budgets for training and development can result in inadequately trained employees, affecting their ability to carry out maintenance and safety procedures effectively.

It’s important to note that not all railroads implementing PSR will experience these safety and maintenance issues to the same extent. The impact of cost-cutting measures on safety standards and maintenance practices will depend on the specific policies and practices adopted by each railroad, as well as the commitment of management to balancing cost reduction with safety and maintenance priorities. Effective regulatory oversight and industry standards can also play a significant role in ensuring safety standards are maintained in a PSR environment.

What if you’ve been injured by the railroad?

If you lost a loved one in a railroad accident, FELA does provide recourse. Hiring a train accident attorney who is experienced with FELA law is crucial. The railroads look out for themselves; a FELA attorney looks out for you and your family’s financial well being.

Kujawski & Associates, LLC are FELA attorneys in O’Fallon, Illinois. Our railroad accident attorneys handle Federal Employers’ Liability Act cases across the country. You will owe nothing in attorney fees unless you get compensation resulting from your FELA injury claim with the assistance of a FELA lawyer right here in St Clair County IL.

If you have been injured on the job or have lost a loved one in a railroad accident, or if you have been harassed for advocating for railroad safety, and need a railroad injury attorney near St Louis, contact us at 800-624-4571 or contact us online for a free consultation.

We’re railroad injury lawyers you can count on.

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