Watco safety leader Travis Herod recently had the pleasure of hosting a special guest from Australia who is also involved in railroad safety. Peter Doggett, COO, Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator – Australia, visited the Watco’s Dallas (Zacha) Terminal in Texas and the STAT Center in Birmingham, Alabama, to learn more about the U.S. rail system and how it is regulated. Doggett’s position is similar to that of a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) official.

“My trip to the U.S. (and Canada) was to serve a number of purposes,” said Doggett. “Quite a while back, Grant Thompson (COO of Watco Australia) was presenting to my management team on Watco’s operations in Australia and its plans for expansion in Australia. That discussion opened my eyes to the much bigger size and scope of Watco’s operations in the U.S. and Grant extended an invitation for me to visit should the opportunity arise. So, when I started planning for this trip, I thought it would be useful to spend some time with Watco to not only learn about its operations, but also about how it interacts with the FRA.”

Herod introduced Doggett to several team members who serve in various roles in the rail industry. He spent time visiting with them and finding out more about what they do and how the many regulations affect them. In Dallas, Doggett visited with a few of the team members, including Supervisor David Callan, who took him on a tour of the facility.

“He was very interested in what we do here and how we are regulated by the FRA. He asked a lot of questions and seemed experienced in train movements,” Callan said. “He wanted to ride in the locomotive here, but they were running short on time so he didn’t get the opportunity to go.”

“I have visited America many times over many years, and I am always impressed with the way people are keen to help and talk to you about anything you want. That came through loud and clear with my visit to Watco – everyone I spoke to was only too keen to explain things to me and also hear about how we do things in Australia,” Doggett said. “I certainly learned a lot, and hopefully, I returned the favour by explaining the (different) way we go about things in Australia.”

One difference between most Australian rail companies and American companies is that the Australian companies will outsource their training. While visiting with engineers and conductors at the Birmingham, Ala., training center, Doggett told them they were fortunate that the railroad company was training them and that they were being taught the right stuff instead of just having a box checked off to say that they’ve been trained.

“I would like to especially thank Travis Herod for his time and the effort he made to facilitate my visit. I am sure it was disruptive to his schedule, and I want to thank him for looking after me,” said Doggett. “Travis also introduced me to Bill Smith, who is the FRA Railroad System Oversight Manager for Watco. It was great to be able to talk openly with both Bill and the Watco team about the challenges of regulating a railroad from the perspective of both the railroad and the regulator.”

“Despite some differences – one thing that is common amongst rail Many of us have been touched by tragedies in the past and are doing everything we can to make sure we never have to go through it again. Our countries are 100% aligned on this point.”