« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
power brakes in operation in trains, having been called to the attention of the Commission, steps were taken to remedy the condition as far as the Commission could act. Under section 2 of the amended safety-appliance act of March 2, 1903, the Commission is given authority to increase the lawful minimum percentage of power brakes to be used in trains from time to time, after full hearing, and acting under this provision of law an order was issued on August 11, 1905, calling upon all carriers subject to the safety-appliance act as amended to report to the Commission on or before October 1, 1905, the number of freight cars owned, the number of such cars equipped with air brakes, and the average percentage of air-brake cars used in trains during the six months prior to September 1, 1905, the Commission at the same time announcing its intention of setting the matter for hearing with a view of issuing an order increasing the minimum percentage of power brakes to be used in trains if the testimony and evidence presented at the hearing seemed to warrant such an order.
Under this order of August 11 returns were received from practically all carriers subject to the act, which returns show approximately a total of 1,790,113 freight cars owned on October 1, 1905, of which 1,564,396 were equipped with air brakes. From the best obtainable information there are also 111,122 private cars in the United States, practically all of which are equipped with air brakes. Upon receipt of this information the Commission issued an order, on October 19, setting the matter for hearing on November 2, 1905, notice of which hearing was given to all carriers subject to the act, as well as the chief executive officers of the organizations of railway employees, who were present or represented at the hearing.
From the evidence presented at this hearing it appeared that there was no serious opposition to the general proposition for an increase in percentage, but objection was made to the making of an order putting such increase into immediate effect, because of the unusual press of business and the extreme difficulty of obtaining cars at the present time. It was contended that such an order would cause considerable extra switching, adding to the difficulties of congestion in yards, and causing serious delay to the movement of traffic. Shippers would thereby be subjected to great inconvenience, as well as absolute loss in many cases. As these contentions appeared to be well founded, the Commission accordingly made an order putting the proposed increase into effect on August 1, 1906, at which time of year business generally is at its lowest ebb. On and after that date a minimum of 75 per cent of the cars in all trains required by the act to be operated by power brakes must have their brakes used and operated. This is in lieu of the present lawful minimum of 50 per cent. In addition to this the law requires that all powerbraked cars associated together with the minimum shall have their brakes used and operated. It is expected that this increase will have a good effect in giving better control of trains and will hasten the abandonment of a number of old and light cars which are a menace to safety.
VIOLATIONS OF THE SAFETY-APPLIANCE ACT.
With few exceptions carriers have cheerfully cooperated with the Commission in its efforts to secure compliance with the law, such violations as the Commission has been compelled to file with the United States district attorneys for prosecution being due to laxity of subordinate officials or employees in the performance of their duties or to their failure to observe instructions, rather than to willful intent of responsible officials to evade or resist the law. In accordance with section 6 of the act there has been transmitted to United States attorneys information showing 425 violations of the law. Penalties to the amount of $9,800 have been collected.
THE INSPECTION SERVICE.
It is impossible to effect an adequate and economical organization of the inspection service with the present force of 18 inspectors. With the small number of men at present available delay in the investigation of complaints is inevitable. This creates a feeling of dissatisfaction and subjects the Government to the charge of laxity in the administration of the law. When complaints involving violations of the law are made the Commission is bound to investigate them by means of its inspectors, to determine whether or not they are sufficiently well founded to justify proceedings in court. The Government is compelled to rely upon the Commission's inspectors to furnish all the evidence to support court proceedings in these cases, as railway employees can not be expected to jeopardize their positions by giving evidence against their employers.
This condition necessitates a careful investigation of each separate complaint, and as complaints are constantly being received from widely separated sections of the country long stretches of travel are involved to secure investigation in many cases. As a consequence much time that should be spent in the inspection of equipment and investigation of complaints is spent in travel, which, with its attendant expense, could be largely avoided were enough men employed to permit the assignment of each inspector to a properly circumscribed area or district.
Under present conditions, too, it is inevitable that some roads should feel that the law is administered in a spirit of persecution or partiality, on account of succeeding cases for violation being brought against them, while other roads that are perhaps as great or even greater offenders escape without prosecution. This is due entirely to the insufficiency of the inspection service and not at all to any intent to apply the law with excessive rigor or partiality to particular roads. The Commission does the best it can with the instruments at its disposal, and if many roads have escaped prosecution it does not follow that conditions on such roads are necessarily better than on those roads that have been prosecuted, but may be wholly due to the fact that proper inspection has not been given the roads where no prosecutions are shown.
It should not be assumed, therefore, that the list of roads against which prosecutions for violations of the law have been entered represents all the offenders against the law or is any criterion of the condition of equipment. It represents merely the area of activity of the inspection service, and as a matter of fact conditions may be vastly better on many of the roads that have been prosecuted than on those roads which have entirely escaped. It is only just to the roads that all should receive equal treatment in the matter of inspection, and for this purpose more inspectors are needed.
This service is directly conducive to the safety of life and limb of railway employees, as well as travelers upon railways. The records of the Commission amply testify to the fact that many lives have been saved and many injuries averted through the administration of this law. A necessary element of proper administration is the maintenance of an adequate inspection service, and such a service should not be allowed to suffer through lack of proper support.
With the close of the fiscal year, June 30, 1905, the reports of accidents made monthly by the railroad companies under the law of March 3, 1901, had been filed and tabulated for four years. The totals for each of these years, as well as details of notably disastrous train accidents, will be found in the appendix.
The salient differences between the last year and the year before may be briefly set forth as follows:
1. In accidents to employees in coupling and uncoupling cars there is an improvement, the number of both fatal and nonfatal injuries showing a decrease. Accidents to men falling from the tops of freight cars have also decreased.
2. In train accidents there has been a material decrease in employees killed, though not in the number injured; but the number of train accidents, as well as the aggregate money loss, has increased, so that the diminution in fatalities must be looked upon as in large measure accidental.
3. The passenger casualties, both fatal and nonfatal, and both from train accidents and in the other class (in which the victims themselves are usually at fault) have largely increased. The increase of nearly 25 per cent killed under “ other causes » indicates that the number of passengers exposed to the risk of accident—that is, the volume of travel-has increased; but the increase of about 30 per cent over 1904 in the number killed in collisions and derailments (which is an increase of 113 per cent over 1903) is due to a series of distressing causes which are well understood.
The details of these accidents have been published in the Commission's quarterly bulletins. The block system, lack of which is understood to be the cause of those in the most numerous class, has been fully discussed in the last two annual reports of the Commission and needs no elaboration here. It is admitted that the block system is simple and scientific, while the “ time-interval ” system is complicated and difficult. More than fifty railroads already use the block system extensively. It is used on hundreds of miles of single-track lines, thus disproving the claim that it is so costly as to be justified only on lines of very heavy traffic. The continued recurrence of very serious collisions on lines not block signaled strongly indicates that in this inatter, as was the case of automatic couplers and power train brakes, many companies need the spur of a statute to compel the use of this well-approved means of preserving the lives of their passengers and employees and preventing serious loss of property.
The only objection urged against the adoption of the space or block system as compared with the time-interval system is the expense of installation.
The Commission has urged the passage of such a law to prevent rear and butting collisions, because, first, collisions constitute the greatest single cause of deaths and injuries to passengers, and, second, because this preventive is well known, simply and easily applied. Concerning legislation looking to the prevention of derailments and of collisions not due to lack of block signals no recommendation has been made; not because the suffering and losses caused by them have passed unnoticed, but because this defect in the operation of railroads is not so readily curable by legislation. It is, however, of the highest importance to do everything possible to throw additional light on the problems involved, and to this end it is suggested that the Government should investigate train accidents and promptly publish the facts concerning them.
The investigation of train accidents is a matter of public interest, for the reason that the causes of such accidents are often complicated or obscure. The responsibility for a collision is frequently chargeable to two or more men connected with the management of a train, or to one or more telegraph operators or signalmen, or to one or more officers, or to all these classes. A cross-examination and sifting of evidence is often necessary to get at the truth. The reports made under the present law are based entirely on the statements of officers of the railroads involved, who, for various reasons, might feel it their duty to conceal the facts, and, with the best of intentions on the part of officers of the railroads, it is difficult, if not impracticable, to formulate a code of questions to be sent by mail which will elicit all the information necessary to clearly explain a collision or derailment. In many cases there are subsidiary questions, such as the causes and effects of fires, which need to be elucidated, although perhaps not strictly to be classed as causes of the accident.
The right of Federal investigation of accidents may be questioned, the contention being that this is a matter which should be dealt with solely by State authority. When it is considered, however, that all railroad companies, with very few exceptions, carry both passengers and property without regard to the citizenship or locality of ownership, and that some State authorities are apparently indifferent to the subject, and that many accidents would be avoided by supervision and a full understanding of existing conditions, it may be that it is the duty of the Federal Government to obtain fuller information and to take such steps as will be conducive to safety, particularly as the Congress has exclusive authority over highways while transporting interstate traffic.
A paper upon the subject of safety appliances and accident reports prepared by the secretary of the Commission will be found in an appendix.
HOURS OF LABOR.
Another important feature of railroad operation is the hours of labor of railroad employees, especially of enginemen, conductors, and other trainmen, telegraph operators, and signalmen. All these men are constantly charged with delicate and responsible duties, and they should never be on duty except when in good physical and mental condition. The need of a high standard in this respect and of care on the part of supervisory officers to see that proper regulations are maintained and obeyed is quite generally recognized, and a considerable number of railroads have prescribed rules limiting the hours of work and providing suitable rest periods; but these rules often appear to be very poorly enforced. Evidence of overwork appears frequently in the accident reports. Besides those cases of men remaining on duty because of wrecks or snowstorms or other emergencies there is much irregularity in everyday train service.
The disposition of men to work beyond reasonable limits of physical endurance, for the sake of facilitating the business of the railroad or to increase their earnings, may be seen in other departments than the train service. Signalmen, who usually work regular turns of