More pervasive, however, is the reluctance of railroad management and labor to accept change. Due to their size and early rise to success, the railroads have tended to become conservative and remain so. They have long been the "establishment" in transportation. Daryl Wyckoff, an expert on railroad organization, has devoted an entire chapter of his book Railroad Management to the resistance to change.48
These obstacles to implementation have created a gap between the common carrier freight railroads--the railroad industry--and other forms of rail transport. For years, private industrial railroads have used one-man crews for switching with radio remote control locomotives. The Muskingum Electric Railroad and several rapid transit systems have proven the feasibility of automation, though the BM&LP has shown that further refinements are needed for large-scale applications. It is symptomatic of the railroads' problems that most research and innovation in the vital area of labor productivity and use of advanced technology have occurred outside the railroad industry.
Given the pace of previous productivity improvements in the crew consist issue, will it be fifty years before today's technology is accepted? As President of the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad, Alan S. Boyd said in 1975 that work rules inhibit productivity and prevent the application of available technology. "We should get rid of cabooses in most through train operations," he noted, "and we must have flexibility in crew sizes and operations. We've got to get some basis where we can be flexible; and it seems to me that if the requirement is a guaranteed annual wage or a lifetime contract- well OK!"49
Obstacles to the implementation of work rule changes and advanced technology are real. They are also surmountable if those responsible desire to address the problems at hand. There has been little inclination to face these issues squarely, however, because the existing railroad industry structure encourages the status quo, insulating both railroad companies and rail unions from many of the competitive free market forces found in the other modes. Change must come if the rail industry is to survive in the private sector.
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Publication information: Book title: Railroads, the Free Enterprise Alternative. Contributors: Daniel L. Overbey - Author. Publisher: Quorum Books. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1982. Page number: 87.
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