On May 26, 2015 Amtrak announced it would be installing inward facing video cameras on its new locomotives. According to Joe Boardman, Amtrak President and CEO, “Inward facing video cameras will help improve safety and serve as a valuable investigative tool.” Amtrak locomotives, like the one involved in the recent derailment in Philadelphia – the cause of which is still unknown – are currently equipped with outward facing cameras only.

Ideally, the new cameras would aid in investigations such as the recent derailment, and further serve to encourage safe behavior on the part of engineers. However, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) expresses concern for engineers who would be subject to non-stop surveillance, even when the locomotive is stationary.

Dennis Pierce, the National President of the BLET and President of the Rail Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, asserts that the installation of such cameras would serve nothing more than to create a “false sense of security in the public.” In his June 2, 2015 statement, he explains BLET’s primary concerns are about privacy and the railroad using camera data punitively against employees. He describes the constant surveillance that rear facing cameras would impose on engineers as “oppressive and un-American.”

According to a recent New York Times article, installing the cameras is estimated to cost Amtrak $20,000 per locomotive and $1.4 million by the end of the year. It is the BLET’s stance that the money would be better spent on the installation of Positive Train Control, an advanced safety system that would prevent accidents like the derailment in Philadelphia. According to Amtrak’s recent statement, safety is the highest priority, and Amtrak is on track to have Positive Train Control fully installed and operational along the Northeast Corridor by the federal deadline of December 31, 2015. Additional information on the derailment investigation, as well as Amtrak’s response with regard to safety may be found in Mr. Boardman’s statement, here.

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