July 18, 2023

Union Pacific expanding utility role to be more responsive to train movements


Union Pacific is expanding the utility role so that the position responds to situations occurring on the rail network.

This expanded role would work on a fixed schedule and be dispatched in a truck to respond to planned and unplanned events along the mainline, UP told FreightWaves in a statement. The utility position is typically based in the rail yards, according to the railroad. 

“The idea is to learn how this role can support train movement. While these operations are ongoing, two people will remain in the cab,” UP (NYSE: UNP) said. “We anticipate launching these positions from North Platte to South Morrill, Nebraska, and Denver, Colorado, to Cheyenne, Wyoming, late this summer/early fall.”

The railroad also said the crew consist agreement recently ratified by union members supports allowing UP to establish a grounds-based utility position. The agreement was with General Committee 953 of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Railroad and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division (SMART-TD). That union represents train conductors at the bargaining table.

UP’s comments were in response to a Monday Associated Press report that the railroad would resume conducting tests in which it would deploy a grounds-based position for certain operations in Nebraska and Colorado. Those tests would still have two crew members in the locomotive cab, according to the AP report.

Meanwhile, the debate about whether Class I railroads should be allowed to deploy one-person train crews is still ongoing. Train crew size is one of the sticking points in the rail safety bill that has yet to be debated on the Senate floor, while a number of state legislatures have adopted rules restricting one-person freight train crews from operating in their states.

UP will report second-quarter 2023 earnings on July 26.

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