Copyright 2003, Traffic World, Inc.

Can''t We All Get Along?

As a former railroad employee, one can see where the reaction to your March 17 on remote-control operations editorial by our colleagues representing the interests of railroad agreement employees was entirely predictable. I refer to the letter entitled "Boyce a Lap Dog" in the April 7 Traffic World.

Sooner or later our counterparts, whose professional livelihood continues to be driven largely by a tired, old dance of nurturing adversarial pettiness between labor and management, might consider raising their leadership paradigm out of the 19th century.

Playing the safety card yet again is so - safe. Indeed, safety is a bipartisan issue that is above reproach, as it must be. And while railroad management is not above reproach, would it arbitrarily save a few hours of training on RCO technology and run the risk of major legal and financial exposure? I don''t think so. This isn''t your granddaddy''s railroad. Rail safety is in everyone''s interest. And so is technology.

Perhaps the leaders of certain rail crafts might have learned from their colleagues on the West Coast who fought to blow off basic technology (commonly used at ports around the world) in their zeal to protect a few hundred clerical jobs. Meanwhile, the cost to the U.S. economy (of the West Coast port contract dispute last year), by some estimates, totaled millions of jobs and billions in lost business and personal income. While precise numbers are open to debate, no doubt remains that the entire episode spoke volumes about narrow self interest and disregard for the greater good of an already fragile economy.

One thing everyone can agree on: rail freight transportation is a mature business. Those who see technology improvements purely as a threat to jobs would be well served to seek a vantage point from higher ground. Proven technology tools placed into the hands of capable personnel in an asset-intensive industry is a matter of competitive necessity. If railroads cannot compete seriously for business and investment, more than a few yard jobs will go away.

When labor and management begin moving beyond that old dance of petty distrust and begin concentrating on creating happy customers together, other issues will become less contentious. The U.S. automotive industry is living proof.

Can''t we all just eat our Milk-bones and get along?

Arnie Bornstein

Director of marketing

& corporate communications

BDP International

(former Conrail employee)