Kirman keeps railroad safe, efficient by creating and modifying rules

Director of Rules and Compliance Harold Kirman is kept busy on many fronts.

As a member of the committee that establishes the General Code of Operating Rules (GCOR), he is advocating for changes to the new code that will be established in 2020. Positive Train Control (PTC) will be a major part of changes to the GCOR, and Kirman has been involved in adapting the rules to PTC since the technology became a reality. 

Kirman also has advocated for changes to Belt rules that would enhance fluidity without compromising safety. 

“It’s about making better use of what you have,” Kirman said. 

As expanding the facility is not possible, finding new efficiencies is key to making enhancements. 

Safety remains the railroad’s primary value, and that’s why changes to the drug and alcohol testing procedure have been implemented and will now include maintenance of way employees. 

More than two decades of service and ‘more to come’

Kirman began his railroad career with the Chicago and North Western Transportation Co. He also worked with Union Pacific, BNSF and Amtrak. He began his Belt career in 2013 as a manager of train operations. 

In the last year, Kirman has implemented new safety rules, operating practices and hazardous material rules. 

“There’s more to come,” he said.

As PTC continues to develop, rules associated with the technology will have to be created and existing rules refined. That will include track bulletin implementation.  

Specialized training for dispatchers related to PTC already has begun. 

Kirman is proud of all he and his colleagues have accomplished at the Belt and across the country. 

“Every day, railroads move hundreds of thousands of tons of freight and a lot of passenger traffic, and what’s important is that it takes place safely,” he said. “We tend to focus on exceptions, but since 1882, we at the Belt have been sorting rail cars and doing it safely and efficiently in the middle of a major city. It’s a testament to our people and what we do.” 

Kirman credits a professional workforce committed to its craft for making railroading safe and ever safer. 

“The workforce is more detail oriented,” he said. 

It has to be as more details are added and rulebooks get continually thicker, Kirman notes. It’s part of progress. Establishing new rules is about learning from the past and teaching people to create a better future.  

“We spot risk trends before they become incidents,” he said. “The process of making things safer never stops. How you communicate new best practices and rules is what makes a difference.” 

His goal remains imparting knowledge to employees so that they are prepared for any situation they encounter.

‘We are constantly looking to raise awareness, and encourage employees to never be afraid to ask a question. I expect you to call me if you have a question about a rule,” he said.