BLE, the country's oldest labor union, told Reuters its governing body took a step toward joining or affiliating with the Teamsters by authorizing its top three leaders to explore the possibilities of a merger.
"There is still a long way to go, but this is a first step in the right direction," said BLE president Don Hahs.
BLE has 38,000 active members in the railroad industry, mostly locomotive engineers, and the group says it would gain more influence in bargaining and in lobbying by connecting with the Teamsters, whose 1.4 million members include long-haul truckers.
"Our two unions serve a common purpose of transporting goods from manufacturers to consumers," said Teamsters president James Hoffa. "By joining together, we will create a seamless transportation union."
BLE spokesman John Bentley said he could not predict how long it would take before a merger proposal could be put before his union's members for ratification.
In December, BLE members rejected a proposed merger with the United Transportation Union, a railroad workers union.