Update from GC Alan Holdcraft concerning (IFC) Inward Facing Cameras

Post date: Sep 18, 2015 2:43:46 PM


We met with BNSF on September 11 to discuss their installation of Inward Facing Cameras (IFC) on locomotives. As you know, BNSF has resisted early implementation and has instead taken a “wait and see” position while FRA considered a regulation. FRA has made it clear that they will require IFCs on all road locomotives that operate on Class 1 railroads as well as any locomotives that operate at speeds exceeding 25 mph. Therefore, BNSF has decided to begin installation and testing of various models and arrays.

As I write this, BNSF has four locomotives equipped with IFCs. They are testing two-camera systems as well as single-camera systems to determine the best arrangement. They intend to install four more units in October. The data will be stored on a 500 gig hard drive which will be housed in a crash proof box along with the existing Event Recorder and Outward Facing Camera (OFC) recorder. At the current frame rate (30 fps) the data will overwrite in about 10-12 days depending on operating conditions. The current plan for installation on the 6000 unit locomotive fleet would take 5-6 years to complete. Of course that plan may be modified depending on FRAs final regulation.

BNSF says that the video will be treated as “very sensitive data” and access to the recordings must be approved by senior management. There is currently no plan for wireless downloading and, instead, any download will need to be done using a wired connection on board the locomotive.

We are urging BNSF to turn off the camera when the locomotive stops and to turn off on all trailing locomotives. They say they are considering such an approach but they would not commit to our request.

We further asserted that the reliability of OFCs has been suspect. We argued that the data is often unavailable for investigations when the crew has asserted, for instance, that a signal malfunctioned. We were told that the data is extremely reliable but, because the OFCs are equipped with an 80 gig hard drive the data will begin to overwrite in a much shorter time period, perhaps as little as 4-5 days. With that said I would urge you to request that video as soon as possible if you believe it will assist in a disciplinary case. Obviously, if the charges are the result of a remote ops test, you may have little or no time to review the video before it is overwritten.

As you and your members operate these locomotives I would very much like any constructive input you may have. We have already heard some complaints about the red light that is emitted when the camera is operating in infrared (night) mode. Please forward any complaints or concerns to me and I will convey those to management.

Finally, while we are very much opposed to the installation of these cameras and are convinced they do nothing to make the operation safer, please urge your members to refrain from tampering with or blocking visibility of these units. BNSF will consider any tampering as a very serious offence and will undoubtedly take disciplinary action.

I will update you all as additional information becomes available.


Alan Holdcraft

General Chairman


817-426-9003 (Ext. 101) Office

877-546-3660 Fax