6 June 2007
My name is Tom Safruik Legislative Representative of the TCRC Division 583. We in
the running trades of Winnipeg have some particular safety concerns. One of my safety
concerns revolves around the Company’s interpretation and continual modification of the
minimum air brake standards.
Since Dec05, there have been changes that have resulted in confusion amongst operating
employees regarding air tests, specifically the number 3 air brake test, in the Winnipeg
Operating employees have always been required to perform a number 3 air brake test
prior to departure. This test required a minimum tail end brake pipe pressure and air flow
before testing. The minimum air brake standards required the minimum tail end brake
pipe pressure to be at least 75 PSI (pounds per square inch) and the air flow could not
exceed 60 CFM (cubic feet per minute). The Company as early as April06 modified
these minimum requirements for a number 3 air test and thereby reduced the brake test’s
effectiveness and safety. This modification in air brake requirements was initiated by the
Company in an effort to decrease initial terminal detention time (productivity). Charging
the train line requires time especially in the winter months.
In April06 CN Rail in Winnipeg reduced the minimum 75 PSI down to 50 PSI. This had
grave safety concerns with regards to the integrity of the number 3 air brake test. This
directive mandated that when the train had received a number 1 air brake test (by a
Certified Car Inspector) and the Locomotives received a Schedule B, the operating
employee was instructed to couple up the air and wait for a 3 lb increase as indicated on
the IDU. In this case, when the tail end pressure increased from 50 to 53 pounds, the
train would be authorized to proceed. (**During this period local Transport Canada
Inspectors were instructing CN Rail that the operating employee could not operate on the
Main Track with less than 75 PSI)
After repeated “sticking brake issues” and repeated protests from the operating
employees as well as the Health and Safety representatives in Winnipeg, the Company
revised their position and agreed to raise or allow the operating employee to charge the
train line so that the minimum tail end brake pipe pressure as indicated on the IDU would
equal 55 PSI. This new directive did not relieve the operating employees concern
regarding the integrity of the number 3 air brake test, nor did this directive alleviate the
“sticking brake issue”.
The next directive from the Company began in April06 and allowed the operating
employee to charge the tail end as indicated on the IDU to a minimum 60 PSI, however
the Company acknowledged that the operating employee would not have to enter the
main line (CTC territory) until the minimum 75 PSI was achieved. At this time, the air
flow meter was still referred to in regards to the minimum 60 CFM.
The next directive from the Company came in Aug06 when the Company in an effort to
appease both the operating employees as well as the health and safety representatives,
allowed the operating employee to charge the tail end to a minimum 75 PSI. Once this
tail end brake pipe pressure reached the minimum 75 PSI, the operating employee was
directed to depart. It was at this time the air flow meter was disregarded by the
This action on the part of the CN Rail was initiated solely for the purpose of decreasing
initial terminal delay with little regard for safety or the integrity of the air brake
standards. This Company’s new policy continued to fail, because of the “sticking brake
issue”. The Company’s decision to increase the tail end brake pipe pressure requirements
was only done as a result of operating issues (sticking brakes etc.). The sticking brake
Finally, Transport Canada in the summer of 2006 directed CN Rail that trains will not be
allowed to operate on the main line (CTC territory) with less than 75 PSI. The reason
being the 15 lb gradient from 90 PSI to 75 PSI was designed by the manufacturer for
optimum performance of the brake system. A safety issue still remained in that operating
employees were restricted from performing the required number 3 air brake test as
Transport Canada in Ottawa had no issue with CN Rail’s air brake procedures.
This operation as described continued until the “Cold Winter Conditions Set In”. The
new air brake standards contained in the GOI Section 7 were still very confusing to all
running trades employees along with Transport Canada Inspectors, who have extensive
experience in both Airbrake Equipment Standards and Air tests required to operate to
safely operate a train.
The Company’s new directives and their disregard for the operating employees concerns,
cumulated in a variety of safety concerns and compromises in safety.
Specifically, on January 12 2007, I received a phone call from a locomotive engineer who
was forced to leave siding on the Redditt Subdivision, without qualifying air pressure.
The Trainmaster on duty through the RTC ordered him to leave. I then contacted
Transport Canada for guidance. Transport Canada immediately held a conference with
their Inspectors. The result was a verbal communication via telephone to the Trainmaster
responsible for this transgression. The CN official was told that whenever a Locomotive
Engineer was changed, he would be required to perform a number 2 air brake test. This
would entail a 15 lb reduction as indicated on the IDU, a release with a rise to a minimum
75 PSI and 60 CFM on the air flow meter.
I was then contacted by Transport Canada and given the same information. The
trainmaster in charge chose not to act on the direction given him by Transport Canada.
On Sunday January 14 2007, at 1100k, and based on the information I received from
Transport Canada, I issued an E Mail broadcast to the Locomotive Engineers I represent,
stating the direction given by the regulator to the trainmaster.
After the E Mail was broadcast to the members I represent, I received a notice to appear
for a disciplinary hearing involving a formal investigation. The reason given by CN Rail
for this investigation was that I had issued an E Mail in contradiction to CN GOI
Section 7 even though this was the direction of Transport Canada.
The general Chairman TCRC West intervened and spoke to the General Manager setting
up a meeting with the GM and myself. I was of the opinion that with the advise of
Transport Canada and the lack of direction from CN that I took the safe course. This
meeting took place on January 19 2007. I reiterated to the General Manager that I had
taken the safe course. The week following my meeting with the General Manager of CN
Rail, number 3 air brake tests rules were changed to reflect number 2 air brake tests.
I have as an attachment several Bulletins and Advice Notices related to the changes in air
test regulations. These cancellations and revisions are indicative of the confusion that
exists among the Running Trades.
We as conscientious employees consider these changes by CN are based foremost on
time constraints not safety. To this end we recommend that air test regulations be set by
Transport Canada with consultation with the Unions and Company. These regulations
should not be changed on the whim of some supervisor. Changes, if necessary, should
always be a consultative process.
The second point to be made , because of differences of opinion between Ottawa and
Local Transport Canada officials , an appeals process should be established . This
process should be a quick one and not the usual 30, 60, 90 day routine.
I strongly urge the panel to Give the Regulator (Transport Canada)back the Authority and
Power they once had under the RSA.
In light of the recent Deaths, Derailments and Contaminated Waterways in Canada. The
New Rewrite of the RSA be “IRON CLAD”. Give the Regulator back the Authority they
were created to do.