BLET President decries railroads' use of Precision Scheduled Railroading in message to labor union members

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — The president of one of the largest railroad labor organizations in the country has condemned Class I railroads’ move to Precision Scheduled Railroading, writing that it is putting safety at risk and comparing it to the disastrous Penn Central merger a half-century ago.

Dennis R. Pierce, president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, blasted the practice of PSR in a piece published in the organization’s newsletter.

PSR dates back to the 1980s and was preached by the late railroad boss E. Hunter Harrison, who implemented it at the Illinois Central, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, and lastly, at CSX Transportation. In recent months, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific have also implemented their own versions of PSR in an effort to better utilize assets and drive down their operating ratio.

Pierce likens the move to PSR to the creation of the PC and the effort to turn a profit by selling off assets.

“Penn Central’s shippers and workers were mere afterthoughts,” Pierce writes.

“PSR is nothing more than what has been called by many industry observers, and with good
reason, vulture capitalism,” Pierce writes. “Hedge fund investors swoop into a company and drive down operating costs in order to wring out every possible dime in profits, but don’t share those profits with the workers who created them.”

The union boss also raised concerns about the reliance on distributed power to help move longer trains over the road, a practice Pierce calls “dangerous.”

Pierce concluded by noting that BNSF Railway, the largest privately held Class I railroad, has not introduced PSR.

“Perhaps BNSF understands history, or maybe it knows that short-term gain for a few ultra-wealthy investors at the cost of long-term pain for everyone else is not a plan for long term success,” Pierce writes.

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