Accident investigators have been unwilling to speculate on whether operator error or mechanical problems led to Tuesday's deadly Amtrak derailment. But for months, members of the labor union representing locomotive engineers have complained that recent reductions in rest and downtime could lead to tragedy.
"You need to be able to have some kind of chance to get off the equipment, turn your mind off for a while," said Fritz Edler, a veteran engineer who wrote a scathing letter last December to Amtrak managers on behalf the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.
The letter accused Amtrak of forcing "dangerous changes" in the scheduling of engineers that have had the effect of reducing rest time in between trips to Washington, D.C. and New York City.
"Forcing shorter breaks, day after day, between runs increases fatigue related risk and the potential for loss of focus," the letter warned.
So far there is no indication fatigue or loss of focus played a role in the derailment of Amtrak 188, which killed at least seven people and injured dozens more.
The NTSB has not commented on the particular schedule engineer Brandon Bostian worked in the days and hours before the crash.
Amtrak did not answer I-Team inquiries about scheduling of engineers.